Lessons and Innovations from the 2Gen Field
The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) was created to provide state and local areas the flexibility to collaborate across systems and better address the employment and skills needs of employees, jobseekers, and employers. How can leaders use WIOA to create partnerships for two-generational success in states and communities? Where are the roadblocks to 2Gen investments in WIOA? Where might there be low-hanging opportunities for WIOA and 2Gen in communities or states? Ascend Network leaders in workforce development, adult education, policy, and philanthropy have considered these questions and came up with the following strategic recommendations for leveraging the WIOA state planning process to achieve the best outcomes for parents and their families.
Key 2Gen WIOA Opportunities and Strategies
Put families front and center:
- Help WIOA planning committees understand the needs of families by exposing them to family voices. Paint a clear picture of what it might look like for families and for state and local agencies if intentional alignment between systems were to occur.
- Have a robust conversation around coaching models, and specifically family coaching models. While seeking to move families towards better outcomes, put an emphasis on helping them achieve their own goals, and look to coaching models used by the New Haven MOMS Partnership and Crittenton Women’s Union for examples.
- Develop relationships with members of workforce investment boards in order to help them understand and address the unique challenges facing formerly-incarcerated individuals and their families.
Build alignment between systems:
- Use WIOA as an “excuse” to have conversations around aligning and linking state and local workforce development, postsecondary education, and human services systems.
- Communicate to workforce investment boards (WIBs) that collaborating with other systems through an integrated two-generation strategy will help them to better meet their measures and keep parents enrolled in their programs.
- Educate legislators and local politicians on the two-generation approach in order to embed 2Gen into WIOA state plans.
- Use memorandums of understanding in order to formalize partnerships with WIBs and other stakeholders.
- Combined or unified plan? 2Gen works either way. If your state doesn’t opt to do the combined plan, you can still work towards alignment, even in states where the political gridlock is especially tight. Make the plan with an eye to inform future amendments, and, if need be, do the collaborative parts separately.
Think hard and outside the box:
- Set different performance standards for different populations. Negotiating different thresholds for harder-to-serve populations can end up expanding and improving services for these populations, and prevent them from being neglected due to the difficulty in reaching unrealistic benchmarks.
- Think all the way through implementation: many great provisions made it into WIA (the Workforce Investment Act of 1998), but never actually made it out to help families. Make sure you are putting enough teeth into the state plan to ensure that it will actually happen.
- Pay attention to the up to 10% of funds that can be used for pay-for-performance contracts.
See the Ascend 2-pager “Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act: Two-Generation Strategies” for more recommendations on how to make the most of WIOA for parents and their children.
Speakers at the 2015 ThinkXChange WIOA session included: