High Road WIOA: Building Higher Job Quality into Workforce Development

In response to the federal Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act (WIOA), most states are now in the latter stages of developing federally required plans and policies for operating their systems of workforce development under WIOA. This process creates an unprecedented opportunity to build into each state’s plan concrete ideas for using state and local workforce policy and practice to boost job quality. By developing new policies that help local boards connect workers to the best possible jobs, and supporting employers – individually and in partnerships – with efforts to improve jobs, WIOA implementation can create a “high road in workforce development.” It can make workforce systems an enduring force for better job quality.


In this brief, we propose three concrete disbursement policies that allow for more effective and focused use of WIOA resources, by ensuring that employer partners are the best possible fit for job seekers in the system. Many states or local areas already have some language supporting job quality – for example, seeking to target scarce training dollars to occupations that meet self-sufficiency wage standards (i.e., pay enough to support a family without public assistance). As this indicates, the goal of promoting the highest possible job quality for workers helped by the system is uncontroversial. The next logical step is to make this commitment more concrete and direct investments in ways that help secure the job quality outcomes on which there is strong consensus.