U.S. Department of Labor
Washington, D. C. 20210





July 16, 2004





Assistant Secretary
SUBJECT : The Employment and Training Administration's (ETA's) New Strategic Vision for the Delivery of Youth Services Under the Workforce Investment Act (WIA)

  1. Purpose. To inform states and local areas of ETA's new strategic vision to serve out-ofschool and at-risk youth under the Workforce Investment Act (WIA).

  2. References.

  3. Background. The realities of today's global economy make it imperative that publicly funded workforce systems for youth be demand-driven, and the programs and services made available through those systems be aimed at preparing our country's most at-risk and neediest youth for real job opportunities. Despite the billions of Federal, state, local and private dollars spent on needy youth and their families, many out-of-school youth are currently being left behind in our economy because of a lack of program focus and emphasis on outcomes. Well-designed workforce investment programs offer youth who have become disconnected from mainstream institutions and systems another opportunity to successfully transition to adult roles and responsibilities.

    The Administration is committed to trying bold, innovative and flexible initiatives to prepare the most at-risk and neediest youth for jobs in our changing economy. The White House Task Force Report on Disadvantaged Youth, released in December 2003, articulated a set of broad goals for disadvantaged youth in the country, including that they "grow up ready for work, college and military service." The report also recommended that youth programs focus on serving the neediest youth, with priority given to out-of-school youth, high school dropouts, runaway and homeless youth, youth in foster care, court involved youth, children of incarcerated parents and migrant youth.

    ETA has set an overarching priority for the entire workforce investment system: meet the demands of business by providing adults and youth with the necessary educational, occupational, and other skills training and services needed for high demand occupations in the 21st century. In that regard, ETA has developed a new strategic vision to serve out-of-school and at-risk youth through the workforce investment system. This vision represents new strategies for the investment of WIA resources. The vision's focus on connecting youth with high quality education and employment services can be achieved under current law and reflects the principles articulated by the Administration for the reauthorization of WIA.

    VISION: Out-of-school youth (and those most at risk of dropping out) are an important part of the new workforce "supply pipeline" needed by businesses to fill job vacancies in the knowledge economy. WIA-funded youth programs will provide leadership by serving as a catalyst to connect these youth with quality secondary and postsecondary educational opportunities and high-growth and other employment opportunities.

    ETA's new vision for serving youth will present challenges for how state and local WIA programs interact and link with state and local education and economic development systems. To achieve this vision, ETA will adopt a new strategic approach across four major areas:

    This TEGL is meant to provide information to state and local WIA systems on ETA's new strategic vision for serving youth, the proposed focus areas, and the goals and critical strategies that Federal, state and local youth workforce programs should be implementing for Program Year (PY) 2004.

    During PY 2004, ETA will be issuing specific program guidance to states and local areas on implementing components of the new strategic youth vision.

  4. Critical Strategies. The new vision for serving youth and the following proposed critical strategies will require ETA and state and local workforce investment system leaders to serve as catalysts for bringing togetherer employment, education and economic development. If the vision is realized, state and local workforce investment systems serving youth will be positioned as strategic partners in the development and deployment of the emerging labor force.

    1. Focus on Alternative Education. The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) act holds schools, school districts, and states accountable for student outcomes and requires that students meet standards in core subject areas. The implementation of NCLB has important implications for "second chance" alternative education programs since the public workforce investment system often contracts with these programs to provide educational services to economically disadvantaged high school dropouts and out-of-school youth with basic skills deficiencies, some of whom may have diagnosed or undiagnosed learning disabilities.

    Goal: ETA is committed to providing leadership to ensure that youth served in alternative education programs will receive a high quality education that adheres to the state standards developed in response to the NCLB act.

    In collaboration with the Department of Education, ETA will issue guidance to the workforce investment system on the following:

    State and local workforce systems are encouraged to partner with public school systems implementing state NCLB requirements around mutually beneficial issues, such as:

    Local level workforce investment areas are also encouraged to increase their knowledge of alternative education opportunities. This can be done by engaging in a "mapping" of alternative education offerings in the community to be used by both the education and workforce systems to help students make smart choices.

    Lastly, WIA youth programs, working through the One-Stop Career Center system, should ensure that alternative education institutions have and use information on local workforce training programs and local labor markets, including national electronic tools such as "Career Voyages" (www.CareerVoyages.gov), public and proprietary career information, and state workforce information. Local areas should ensure that alternative education students are exposed to job opportunities in growing occupations, including requirements for further education and training and possible career pathways.

    1. Focus on Business Demands, Especially in High-Growth Industries and Occupations.

    Goal: The investment of WIA youth resources will be demand-driven, assuring that youth obtain the skills needed by businesses so they can succeed in the 21th century economy.

    Accomplishing this goal will entail three priorities:

    In addition, staff should be knowledgeable about youth assessment, development of individual service strategies, integration of needed services, provision of follow-up services, and explicit documentation of services and outcomes. WIA youth professionals should ensure that training funds will be prioritized for eligible youth pursuing highgrowth opportunities and that training investments meet industry-specific requirements leading to an industry-recognized credential, when appropriate.

    1. Focus on Neediest Youth. The White House Task Force Report on Disadvantaged Youth notes that the Federal government is spending billions of dollars to address the problems of youth. According to the report, youth training funds appear to be focused on ineffective and duplicative practices, and public money needs to be targeted to where it is most needed. The Task Force identified youth in foster care (particularly those aging out of foster care), youth in the juvenile justice system, children of incarcerated parents, and migrant youth as those most in need of services.

      ETA is making investments in a number of new initiatives to focus on and develop new strategies for serving these identified populations.

    Goal: ETA will prioritize investments that serve youth in foster care, those aging out of foster care, youth offenders, children of incarcerated parents and migrant youth.

    1. Focus on Improved Performance. In order to ensure the success of an increasingly at risk youth population in the knowledge economy, the workforce investment system must be committed to utilizing the strategies that lead to higher levels of performance and outcomes. ETA will provide the leadership necessary to make this happen.

    Goal: Key initiatives will be implemented to assure that funding for youth programs is performance-based and that systems and programs are focused on outcomes.

    All youth professionals will be expected to be knowledgeable about their local economy (e.g., current status, future projections, high-growth industries, career paths) and One-Stop Career Center professionals will be expected to make the connection to specialized youth programs for those drop-outs who are using core services and are in need of more intensive assistance.

  5. Action Required. States should share the information in this TEGL with the local areas.

  6. Inquiries. Questions should be directed to the appropriate regional office.