The Workforce Investment Act is the major federal program designed to meet the job placement and training needs of displaced and hard-to-employ workers. It has provided employment and training services for health care workers, particularly allied health workers, long-term care workers, and nurses, although exact estimates are difficult to obtain.
WIA-funded health care workforce initiatives have included training programs targeted to a specific job classification, such as certified nurse assistants, or across a range of care-giving occupations. Initiatives have developed career ladder programs that enable caregivers to obtain skills needed for higher-level health care positions, educational capacity building for workforce occupations, and scholarships to support community college classes or nursing degrees.
Reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act—expected in the next Congress—could provide an opportunity for leveraging WIA funding to specifically target the training, recruitment, and retention of health care workers in general, or a specific group—such as long-term care workers—in particular. This approach would fundamentally alter the existing structure of the WIA, which has attracted criticism for being too locally driven and unresponsive to larger workforce demands.
A related alternative would be to focus on the burgeoning need for direct care workers by launching a new program specifically targeting long-term care workers—in essence, a Long-term Care Worker Investment Act. This type of initiative would specifically direct federal workforce training money to long-term care worker training, job placement, and retention activities, without needing to compete for funding within the framework of WIA.
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