New workforce law targets funds for opportunity youth

May 28, 2015

Mike Strecker
Phone: 504-865-5210

The Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act (WIOA), a new federal law that will provide more funding for job training and adult education, could greatly benefit opportunity youth locally, according to a brief released today by the Cowen Institute in partnership with Baptist Community Ministries and the New Orleans Business Alliance. Opportunity youth are young adults aged 16-24 who are neither in school nor working.

The law, which goes into effect July 1, replaces an existing one to serve as the largest source of federal funding for workforce development.

“There is a significant gap between the skills of New Orleans’ workforce and those required by the jobs that are, and will become, available,” said Cowen Institute policy director Vincent Rossmeier. “The New Orleans region has the third highest estimated rate of opportunity youth in the nation, and the funds from this new law can help provide services to these young people.”

According to the brief, Louisiana ranks 14th in occupational skills training and 35th in educational achievement. WIOA will provide funding to states to implement plans for dividing the money regionally among local workforce investment boards.

“The Workforce Investment Opportunity Act has an increased focus on opportunity youth, and if the funds are used to prepare them for high-growth industries, it offers the chance for the New Orleans region, and the state of Louisiana, to fill the potential employment gap with local workers,” said Melissa Ehlinger, interim president of the New Orleans Business Alliance.

In particular, youth will be better able to receive services under the new legislation. Services will be prioritized for out-of-school youth and those with the lowest skills. The law will also increase the number of youth served, expand education and training options, and create higher standards for service providers in order to improve quality and results.

To read the complete brief, visit

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000