How to Use WIOA Funds to Engage Out-of-School Youth

Terri Kaufman - Workforce Development Specialist ·

It is estimated that over 5 million youth (16-24 years old) now referred to as “young adults” are not in school and are not employed. The challenge is how to serve these young adults and prepare them to succeed in today’s workforce. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Title-l youth formula funds now provide state and local workforce development boards the resources needed to assist the youth in their communities. Local areas can now develop programs and make critical investments in serving disconnected young adults, who are out-of-school youth (OSY).

There has also been a major shift in how WIOA funds must be used to support OSY activities. The program is now focused on practical work experience and linking services to the attainment of secondary school diplomas and high school equivalencies.

Financially, a minimum of 75% of WIOA Title-I youth formula funds must be spent on OSY activities and 20% of these funds must be used on work-based experiences.

Engaging youth adults can be extremely challenging, especially the out-of-school youth population. These challenges often include:

  • How to engage (identify) and motivate older youth adults
  • How to match their career interests and keep them engaged to achieve measureable skill attainment
  • How to market services and resources to these young adults in diverse communities.
  • How to provide informational services on available job opportunities
  • How to connect them to other services (housing, healthcare, childcare etc...)
  • How to recruit youth to participate in skill trainings needed
  • How to leverage resources to better serve youth

The goal is to provide young adults with a menu of services that will enable them to meet educational goals, learn about career pathways and develop skills to obtain meaningful employment. The next step is to identify what is missing and build relationships with community partners who can provide services needed.

Out-of-school youth are likely to have barriers to pursuing successful education and securing employment. These individualized barriers can make it difficult for local workforce boards to provide needed services, while at the same time, meet performance expectations. Efforts to reengage young adults and remove barriers is the goal of the program. Local Boards need to be aware of all services and resources available in their region, as well as who provides them.

By reaching out and building partnerships with regional providers and leveraging their resources, out-of-school youth will be more effectively served.

Local Boards need to facilitate a regional dialog among providers and help build successful partnerships that identify resources and services, all with the goal of serving the needs of youth by:

  • Conducting a Youth Project Launch Meeting with known regional service providers
  • Completing asset mapping of all services
  • Completing a SWOT (Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities, and Threats) Analysis
  • Sharing Information
  • Facilitating the creation of a vision and mission that defines a strategy to service youth

WIOA requires local areas to provide work-based experiences to out-of-school youth. However, we must also provide access to the individualized services needed to attain secondary school diplomas, high school equivalencies; industry recognized credentials and entry into postsecondary education or employment. How is your local area meeting the challenges of serving out-of-school young adults? Have you engaged regional partners to work together to serve out-of-school young adults? Have you developed regional strategies that align resources, services and outreach activities to attract and better serve out-of-school young adults?

We are here to help you! For more information regarding engaging out-of-school young adults, please contact me at: