To advance equity is to confront the status quo.
Today, nearly 6 million youth in the United States are disconnected from school and work, and available programs are struggling to assist them. With their economic futures at risk, these ‘Opportunity Youth’ are in critical need of more comprehensive and coordinated training, employment assistance, and life supports that go beyond traditional workforce development services. Though such initiatives have been statistically proven to increase earnings and sustain employment for marginalized groups, the workforce system is currently unequipped to analyze the outcomes essential for economic self-sufficiency. Status-quo workforce development contracts typically pay organizations for the outputs of a program, such as number of people served, rather than its outcomes, such as the number of people in livable wage jobs that put them on a career path to self-sufficiency.
The time for progress is now.
The recent authorization of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) has opened a unique and time-sensitive window to shift nearly $300 million in federal funding towards outcomes-based payments. WIOA youth programs focused on career guidance, educational support, and skills training can be rewarded for achieving targeted outcomes for individuals in need. This means that local workforce agencies can take more risks in their programming to deliver more holistic counseling that can best prepare marginalized youth for success. Workforce boards across the country can now move beyond traditional workforce services, and move towards services that meet youth where they are.
Third Sector has partnered with five local workforce boards to seize this opportunity.
In Massachusetts, Virginia, California, Colorado, and Texas, we are working closely with local workforce agencies to assess the feasibility of a ‘Pay-for-Performance’ project in their communities. These projects will drive WIOA funding streams towards programs dedicated to measurably improving outcomes for low-income workers. The impact of these programs will go beyond their jurisdictions, providing the basis of workforce system blueprint designed to scale the use of Pay-for-Performance contracting nationally. The chance to shift status-quo job training to comprehensive services that address structural inequity is rare – and Third Sector is helping communities across the country take advantage.
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