Federal Government Youth Workforce Development Policies and Programs (Virginia Pay for Success Lab)

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 (WIOA) - the most significant law governing workforce development in the United States - replaced the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). It was the first significant revamp of the federal workforce system since WIA was introduced in 1998. WIOA provides three separate funding streams for American workers, including one stream specifically for youth programs. This thorough overview of the law, by the National Association of Workforce Boards and Public Consulting Group, provides a complete explanation of changes introduced under WIOA. 

Young people are eligible to participate in youth programs under WIOA if they are between the age of 14 and 24. The law divides eligible participants into “in-school” and “out-of-school” youth. In-school youth must be attending school, be between the age of 14 and 21 (or older, if the individual has a disability), low-income, and meet at least one additional criterion, such as being “basic skills deficient”, homeless, or pregnant. Out-of-school youth must not be attending school, aged between 16 and 24, and meet at least one additional criterion, such as being a school dropout, homeless, or pregnant. This Congressional Research Service reporton vulnerable youth contains an explanation of eligibility by age group.

Notably, WIOA includes Pay for Success components, described more generally in the legislation as “pay for performance.” Local workforce boards are able to use up to 10 percent of funds across all three streams - Youth, Adult, and Dislocated Workers - on pay for performance initiatives. Furthermore, states can use WIOA funds to offer technical assistance to local areas to help with implementation of Pay for Success strategies. States can also use non-federal funds to promote the use of pay for performance by local workforce areas.This document by America Forward provides a summary of Pay for Success-related provisions in WIOA.

The Carl D. Perkins Career & Technical Education Act of 2006 provides federal funding for career and technical education (CTE). These programs prepare participants for the workforce and higher education. There is a diverse range of program areas under the act, from healthcare to construction, that have an impact on youth and their employment prospects. In Virginia, both the community college system and the Department of Education operate these initiatives. The National Skills Coalition published an issue brief that contains more detailed information. 


There are three job training and employment services for youth authorized by WIOA, operated by the Department of Labor (DOL), and funded by Congress: Youth Workforce Investment Activities Program (Youth Program), Job Corps, and YouthBuild. 

  • The Youth Program is a formula grant program whereby state and local workforce investment boards can utilize the funding to provide youth employment and other services. The program received $831.84 million in funding for FY 2015.
  • The Job Corps funding stream provides education, vocational training, and additional social services delivered primarily through subcontractors. Job Corps often also has its own housing units offered to current participants. This program received $1.69 billion in funding for FY 2015. 
  • YouthBuild is a competitive grant program that provides work experience, skills training, and/or education primarily in the construction trades. YouthBuild received $79.69 million in funding for FY 2015.

Finally, the Reintegration of Ex-Offenders program specifically targets youth involved or at risk of involvement with the criminal justice system. Grant recipients have focused on education, skills training, community service, and more. While WIOA does not specifically authorize the program, Congress appropriated it $44.05 million for FY 2015.

Overall, most programs target youth from low-socioeconomic backgrounds, and provide educational services, vocational training, or both. You may find more information on the four examples highlighted here in the aforementioned Congressional Research Service report. In addition, the Abt Associates memorandum referenced in our introductory post describes evidence-based programs beyond the scope of the federal government.

Authored by Katherine Bailey; Edited by Grady Brown and Joshua Ogburn.