Earlier this spring, Service Year Alliance and America's Service Commissions worked together to issue a set of joint recommendations to the House Education and Labor Committee in their reauthorization of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, or WIOA, which provides guidance and funding for a number of service year programs through the U.S. Department of Labor. We are grateful to the Committee for their ongoing support of national service and their recognition of the need to better knit together service and workforce development programming and resources.
America’s Service Commissions & Service Year Alliance Joint Recommendations Regarding National Service for WIOA
National service plays a unique role in society: it helps address communities’ unmet needs, gives young people experiences that allow them to invest in themselves and bring Americans together in common purpose. Service years are also a form of workforce development and a talent pipeline well-suited to young adults that combine work-based learning and career development with a motivating social purpose. Participants gain soft skills like communication, collaboration, creativity, and cultural competency that are sought after by employers. Many programs also provide sector-specific skills that can put young people on the path to careers in demand sectors.
Participation in national service programs helps unemployed and disconnected Americans secure employment. A study by CNCS shows that unemployed individuals who volunteer are 27 percent more likely to secure employment than those who do not volunteer. This relationship is even more significant for unemployed individuals without high school diplomas and those who live in rural communities.
Further, national service helps put opportunity youth on a path toward education or a career. Model national service programs enable opportunity youth to earn their diploma or GED while serving simultaneously, and other service models provide a workforce development tool for opportunity youth by giving them valuable on-the-job training in skills that are connected with career pathways.
Research shows that those who participate in service year programs without a Bachelor’s degree are over twice as likely to go on to earn their bachelor’s degrees compared to a peer group with the equivalent years of work experience. Service year alumni also begin their careers in higher-paying roles than their peers in a variety of career areas.
As our economy shifts and federal lawmakers look to align workforce development opportunities with high-demand sectors, national service is an important tool that is already putting young people on pathways to these sectors, including healthcare and information technology. These alignments could and should be built out further.
As this committee reauthorizes the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), we believe there are significant opportunities to further leverage the workforce development possibilities of national service and ensure that service is tied into the federal, state and local workforce development infrastructure of our nation.
Recommendations for WIOA reauthorization
Require that State Workforce Development Board membership include a representative of the State Service Commission
Require WIOA state plans to address integration of national service programs with workforce development strategies
Mandate that an entity which is a local national service organization be a required partner in the local one-stop delivery system.
Define Corporation for National and Community Service-supported national service as work-based learning in WIOA
Clarify authority under WIOA to support investment in transitional employment strategies - including work-based learning
Define WIOA youth, adult and dislocated worker performance indicators of “employment” to include placements resulting from work-based learning programs
Allowing all WIOA program funding to be used as matching funds for AmeriCorps programs