Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)


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Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)

Date of publish: 02/08/2024
Author: Vitaliy Avramenko
Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

Have you heard of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act? Maybe you’ve seen a billboard or heard about this program from a friend or family member. This program is one of the greatest workforce-kept secrets, but it isn’t a secret. Most people don’t know about this program because local agencies choose not to spend funds on marketing. They prefer to allocate those federal funds to impact the community at large. So what exactly is WIOA, and how did it come about?

Brief History 

During the Great Depression, President Roosevelt signed the New Deal into law (1933 & 1937). The objective of the New Deal was to produce relief, recovery, and reform to the economy. We had the Wagner-Peyser Act rolled out as part of these new initiatives. This allowed the Department of Labor to become involved in helping people match up with jobs in their local area. $210 billion (today’s dollar value) was spent to implement this program. Then, we entered the WWII era, and this program was dissolved to focus on war efforts domestically and overseas. Between then and 1998, small programs were created to help the workforce, but most were ended shortly thereafter due to inadequate implementation or corruption.

Bill Clinton signed the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (also known as WIA) into law, which created “One Stop” centers all around the country. Individuals struggling to find employment could walk into these centers, receive help with basic resume writing, cover letters, and interviewing skills, and attend intensive workshops. Skills that the education systems were not teaching but were critical to obtaining and keeping employment. Now, for a small group of individuals still unable to find employment, a small pool of money was set aside to aid in specific skilled training (an average of $4,000). The restructuring of these services was a success, but the program was not reauthorized for 16 years. 

WIOA- Effective July 2015

Under the Obama administration, the reauthorization of WIA into the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act took place in 2014 (implementation took place in July 2015). There was a great disconnect between Workforce Development and our Education system. People were still coming out of school without the skills needed to obtain good-paying jobs in their regions. There was a great need for resources and guidance for disadvantaged families. 

WIOA was designed to work in this matter: Money is allocated from the federal government to the local government. Designated local agencies, overseen by the Department of Labor and Department of Education, then utilize these state funds to help evaluate participants and provide individual pathways to help in their job development skills. Some services offered are skills assessment, education on the local labor market, English Language Learner services, occupational skill training, and job readiness training to obtain a good-paying, full-time job in their local community. WIOA focuses heavily on helping those already receiving public assistance, low-income adults, dislocated workers, veterans transitioning out of military service, and their spouses. This is heavy government oversight every step of the way. The goal of the WIOA program is that the participants’ time spent in this program should be valuable and beneficial to their success in the workforce. 

Who is eligible?

Short answer: These services can be accessed by anyone. However, the WIOA program does prioritize its funding. 

3 Main Program Focuses:

  1. Adults (over 18) low-income earners.
  2. Dislocated workers: Laid-off workers returning to school or the workforce.
  3. Youth: 14 -24 years old (70% of funding must go to out-of-school youth).

Additional eligible candidates: 

  • Those who are Basic Skills Deficient (BSD) can be in areas of reading, writing, mathematics, and language; those in low-income brackets and on public assistance (like SNAP) are also prioritized for WIOA funds.
  • Single parents (who cannot afford child care to pursue higher education).
  • Students ( unable to make ends meet).
  • Veterans who have completed Military service within 12 months of leaving service to transition to civilian life + military spouses (relocated/deployed).

**Must be a US Citizen or US legal resident and authorized to work in the USA


  • Attend an Information Session at your local unemployment office/Job center.
  • Be assigned a caseworker. 
  • Work one-on-one with assigned case managers/workers to create a career path for them + highlight additional needs/benefits needed. 
  • Supportive services may be offered specific to the needs of participants: Limited emergency assistance ( Example: unexpected shift in income, gas assistance, etc.)
  • Individual Assessment completed by caseworker.
  • IEP (Individual Employment Plan) is Created with the individual + the case worker/ career planner to list goals and map out the road of objectives and services. 
  • Continual one-on-one mentorship + career coaching. 
  • Funding is allocated to an approved state licensure/certification program.
  • Progress follow-up after graduation from the program.

Are you ready to get your skilled training for a new career?

Sources & Resources:

Info by state:


South Carolina 



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