Magazine article Techniques

Tardy WIA Rules Raise Ambiguity Concerns

Magazine article Techniques

Tardy WIA Rules Raise Ambiguity Concerns

Article excerpt

The final rules governing several titles of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) have at last been issued by the Department of Labor (DOL), more than eight months late. Made public on Aug. 11, the final rule implements provisions of Titles I, III and V, which reform parts of the federal job training system.

In spite of the delay, there are still "very few substantive changes" to the interim final rule published in April 1999, said Paul Mendez, executive director of the National Association of Workforce Development Professionals (NAWDP). The public was encouraged to respond to the interim final rule during a 90-day comment period and, as a result, there were few surprises arising from the final rule.

"It is very close to the interim," said Mendez, who noted that he has not heard many complaints regarding the content of the final rule. "The Department of Labor has been providing guidance in the meantime. They were telegraphing what the changes would be." To help readers understand the DOL's interpretation of the WIA, the final regulations were written in a question-and-answer format.

As for the rule's reception, it's too soon to see the ramifications of a document that has simply been "tweaked around the edges," said Kim Green, executive director of the National Association of State Directors of Vocational Technical Education Consortium (NASDVTEC). "I haven't heard word one [about the final rule] from my membership, to be honest," she said. "I don't think people have really felt the impact yet."

Back on Aug. 7, 1998, President Clinton signed the WIA into law, creating "a new comprehensive workforce investment system" and replacing the Job Training Partnership Act. Now, more than two years later, states are well on their way to implementing the WIA's reforms, President Clinton said in a statement last month. The final rule is the last official step in this process, providing "additional direction to state and local partners while preserving their planning and operating flexibility," the president said.

But the final rule has not been entirely without criticism. Its deliberate ambiguity with regard to program implementation has made some special interest groups nervous, fearing that their needs will not be adequately represented. Also, some training officials seek greater specificity on how funds will be allocated to the one-stop career centers WIA helped to establish.

Fritz Rumpel, for instance, believes that many of the one-stop locations are not equipped to fully serve the needs of persons with disabilities. "Our concern from the outset is ... that [the one-stops] are in every sense accessible,, said Rumpel, editor of the Webzine for Mainstream Inc., a national nonprofit organization dedicated to finding employment for the disabled. "In concept, we're all for it," Rumpel said of the supposedly inclusive one-stops, which were designed to provide streamlined services to both businesses and job seekers. But all too often, he finds that Mainstream clients need to be referred to vocation rehabilitation agencies. "How does that make the process simpler?" Rumpel asked. "One-stops have not been well-promoted within the disability community. It's got a ways to go, [but] we're hopeful."

Since the implementation of WIA provisions is still in the early stages, some feel the fledgling one-stops are at risk for inadequate funding in the future. "Folks are concerned that a lot of the money is being spent on the infrastructure," NASDVTEC's Green said, rather than on the training and services themselves. …

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