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California uses $2.5 million in WIOA discretionary funds to support “Workforce Navigation” for immigrants

  ·   By Amanda Bergson-Shilcock,
California uses $2.5 million in WIOA discretionary funds to support “Workforce Navigation” for immigrants

More than 1 in 3 Californians was born in another country, and the state’s workforce system is moving to address systems-alignment and coordination issues to improve services to immigrants and English Language Learners.  On May 1, the California Workforce Development Board and the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency announced the award of five grants to local workforce boards to support pilot “Workforce Navigator” programs over the next 18 months.

A major impetus for the project was the state’s recognition of a disconnect between the high number of immigrant and English Language Learner workers in California and the relatively low number being served by the workforce system. In particular, just 3.7 percent of individuals exiting from the state’s WIOA Title I intensive services in Program Year 2014 had limited English skills.

Grant Recipients

Each of the five local boards received a $500,000 grant. The grantees are:

  • Madera County Workforce Investment Corporation
  • Orange County Development Board
  • Pacific Gateway Workforce Investment Network
  • Sacramento Employment and Training Agency
  • San Diego Workforce Partnership, Inc.

Notably, the grantees represent a wide range of geographic, economic, and demographic diversity. Workforce navigators will likely face location-specific opportunities and challenges given settings as diverse as the sprawling Los Angeles metropolitan area (for the Pacific Gateway project), and the substantially less-dense Fresno area (in the Madera County project).

Project Goals

As outlined in the project’s Request for Applications, a primary goal is to improve systems coordination to allow individual jobseekers to more smoothly navigate through adult education, job training, and other workforce services. In particular, grantees are being asked to improve coordination between Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Title I (workforce) and Title II (adult education) services.

Required activities for each grantee include:

  • Leveraging and coordinating a network of wrap-around services (childcare, transportation, etc.) offered through the workforce system and other partners to help individual participants successfully complete workforce programs. 
  • Partnering with nonprofit community-based organizations, particularly in cases when these organizations have established relationships or expertise in serving immigrant communities that local boards do not.
  • Improving alignment with WIOA Title II adult education programs, including co-enrolling participants as appropriate.
  • Establishment of a Workforce Navigator position, designating a specific staff member to help individual immigrant participants navigate the workforce and adult education systems.


Project Funding Source and Key Partners

Key partners in the effort include the California Community College Chancellor’s Office and the California Department of Education, which oversees the state’s adult education programs. The state workforce board is also funding third-party technical assistance and evaluation components of the project.

Funds for the project come from the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act through a provision known colloquially as the “governor’s reserve.” Every state is permitted to use up to 15 percent of its WIOA Title I funds for specific statewide projects at the governor’s discretion, provided the activities meet statutory requirements. All individuals participating in WIOA Title I-funded services must be legally authorized to work in the United States. 

More information about the California effort can be found on the project website.

Posted In: Adult Basic Education, Immigration, California