What is the The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and what does it mean for employment for people with disabilities in North Carolina? NCCDD Council Member Jim Swain, who works at DHHS Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, explains what WIOA means for the State.
The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) amended and reauthorized the Workforce Investment Act as well as the Rehabilitation Act of 1998 (WIA) to strengthen and improve the nation’s public workforce system and advance economic self-sufficiency for millions of Americans with and without disabilities. WIOA is designed to help Americans, including youth and individuals with significant barriers to employment, enter into high-quality jobs and careers while helping employers hire and retain skilled workers who may benefit from education, skills training, and employment and support services. Highlights that impact people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities (I/DD) include:
• The North Carolina Unified Plan, effective July 1, 2016, has been approved at the federal level. Core partners include the Department of Commerce, the NCWorks Commission, the Community College System, and the Department of Health and Human Services.
• Individuals with disabilities under 24 years old cannot be placed in a job paying less than minimum wage unless they have been given the opportunity to access vocational rehabilitation services provided by the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services (DVRS).
• Individuals with disabilities over 24 years of age employed and earning less than minimum wage after July 22, 2016 who are known to the DVRS must be provided career counseling and information and referral services by the DVRS every 6 months during the first year and annually thereafter.
• Emphasizing key activities for preparing young people for vocational outcomes, called pre-employment transition services, such as:
• Requiring that the DVRS set aside 15% of its federal grant for Pre-Employment Transition Services (PETS). This amount is approximately $16 million for North Carolina in 2016.
• The DVRS posted a Request for Applications (RFA) in September 2016 for Pre-Employment Transition Services (PETS) projects and services (the deadline is passed). PETS are a specific set of activities that are defined by the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) of 2014 (Public Law 113-128), and are intended to expose students with disabilities at an early age to self-advocacy, postsecondary training, and employment skills and options. WIOA requires that the vocational rehabilitation program provide a continuum of services to students and youth which begins with PETS and, for individuals who are eligible for the vocational rehabilitation program, continues with vocational rehabilitation transition services.