What is The Workforce Innovation Fund?
The Workforce Innovation Fund ("the WIF") is one of several new Federal grant programs in which grantor agencies support projects that seek to design evidence-based program strategies.
The WIF supports innovation at the systems and service delivery levels. We believe that innovation at the systems level – where policies, organizational structures, planning processes, performance measurement, procurement, investment priorities, and information management systems reside – is necessary to support service delivery strategies that result in better outcomes and lower costs. In support of this goal, the Administration is seeking new ways to remove administrative, statutory, and regulatory barriers and enable a closer alignment and integration of agencies and programs with overlapping missions and clients.
ETA has announced three separate grant solicitations under the Workforce Innovation Fund:
- The Workforce Innovation Fund Solicitation Round 2
- The Workforce Innovation Fund Solicitation
- The Pay for Success Solicitation
The Federal government currently invests over $9 billion annually in employment and training programs designed to support an efficiently functioning labor market through the public workforce investment system1. That system is, and will continue to be, called upon to do more with less, while meeting the needs of a dynamic and rapidly shifting economy. In the 12-month period ending June 30, 2011, the system served over 37 million people facing a range of employment challenges, including long-term unemployment, skill and credential deficiencies, and high job seeker – to job vacancy ratios that made it difficult for even the most competitive job seekers to find employment. To succeed in this context, the workforce investment system must deliver services that are cost-effective, demand-driven and high-impact.
The WIF is one of several new Federal grant programs (including the Department of Education's Investing in Education Fund (I3) and The Corporation for National and Community Service's Social Innovation Fund) in which grantor agencies fund projects that seek to use evidence to design program strategies including innovative approaches. Grants made under the WIF will provide funds to states, local workforce areas, and entities eligible to apply for WIA Section 166 grants to a) retool service delivery strategies and/or policy and administrative systems and processes to improve outcomes for workforce system customers and b) evaluate the effectiveness of such activities appropriately. Why are we interested in both service delivery innovation and systems reform? While employment and training outcomes rest on the effectiveness of service delivery strategies, the policy and administrative frameworks in which these strategies are developed and implemented also have an enormous effect. ETA believes that innovation at the systems level, where policies, organizational structures, planning processes, performance measurement, procurement, investment priorities, and information management systems reside, is necessary to support service delivery strategies that result in better outcomes and lower costs. In support of such goals, the Administration is seeking ways to remove administrative, statutory, and regulatory barriers to support greater coordination in the delivery of services, particularly among agencies and programs with overlapping missions and clients2. Through the WIF, ETA seeks to support changes in structures and policies that enable a closer alignment and integration of workforce development, education, human services, social insurance, and economic development programs.
By focusing on change at both the service delivery and the systems levels, and by requiring rigorous evaluation of each investment, ETA seeks to ensure that these investments form the basis for broader change and continuous improvement in the operation of the public workforce system. By adding new value for our customers, ETA seeks to contribute to the identification and documentation of evidence-based practice within the field of workforce development.
1 The public workforce investment system is a network of federal, state, and local entities that support economic expansion and develop the talent of our nation's workforce. Businesses and job seekers primarily access services through nearly 3000 federally-funded One-Stop Career Centers. Required One-Stop partners include the Adult, Dislocated Worker, and Youth programs, Adult Education, and Post Secondary Vocational Training under the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, Wagner-Peyser-funded employment services, Unemployment Insurance, Trade Adjustment Assistance programs and benefits, and other employment and training programs such as the Senior Community Services Employment Program, Jobs for Veterans State Grant programs, the Indian and Native American Program, the National Farmworker Jobs Program, Community Services Block Grants, Employment and training activities by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Job Corps. Additional human resources program partners include transportation, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and USDA Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Employment and Training Programs.
2 OMB Memorandum (M-11-21). Implementing the Presidential Memorandum "Administrative Flexibility, Lower Costs, and Better Results for State, Local, and Tribal Governments. April 29, 2011. http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/memoranda/2011/m11-21.pdf