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A Snapshot of LEAD Center’s Initiatives and Federal Partnerships

September 30, 2020

The LEAD Center, funded by ODEP, fulfills a critical role of promoting policy development and capacity building for the workforce development system. Also known as the WIOA Policy Development Center, it targets strategic areas of national need (SANNs) necessary to increase employment outcomes and economic advancement for people with disabilities. The SANNs include: (1) Section 188/Nondiscrimination and Equal Opportunity; (2) inclusive career pathways; and (3) data collection and Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) performance reporting. Work in these strategic areas during the coming year will promote transformative change for the workforce system and employment and economic advancement  for individuals using it.

As the WIOA Policy Development Center comes to the end of its first year, and in keeping with the spirit of WIOA, the various activities underway have benefitted from partnerships with multiple federal divisions or agencies. Several current efforts, and their key partnerships, are described below.

Virginia Equal Opportunity Pilot

LEAD Center staff are conducting a statewide pilot in Virginia that provides equal opportunity-related technical assistance and training for workforce staff and partners across all core WIOA partners, including Title 1— Adult, Dislocated Worker, and Youth; Title II—Adult Education and Family Leave Act grant recipients; Title III—Employment Services; and Title IV—Vocational Rehabilitation. The LEAD Center is partnering with DOL’s Civil Rights Center in the development of these trainings.

Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E) Apprenticeship

LEAD Center staff are providing a three-part training for employment specialists/vocational rehabilitation counselors who work with Veterans with disabilities enrolled in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) VR&E program, which will cover: (1) an overview of Registered Apprenticeship; (2) how to connect partners to regional apprenticeship ecosystems; and (3) how to integrate apprenticeship into pre-existing training and counseling services. The training will be piloted at five VR&E offices across the country. The LEAD Center is collaborating with DOL’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service, Office of Apprenticeship, ODEP, and VA’s VR&E. The ultimate goal of the training is to increase the number of Veterans with disabilities in apprenticeship programs.

WIOA Performance Reporting

ODEP supports the Data and Resources to Inspire a Vision of Employment (DRIVE) website, where state government leaders, policy-makers, disability advocates, and other stakeholders can learn about what is working in disability employment. The LEAD team developed an online data visualization tool where one is able to discover state and local data on all disability-related data elements. The LEAD Center works in partnership with DOL's Employment and Training Administration (ETA) and ODEP to encourage the use of quality data to drive system improvements for people with disabilities.

Map of United States on a color spectrum of purple, 2.1%, to yellow, 18.2%, representing State-level Disability. Yellow shading indicates higher rates of reporting and purple shading indicates lower rates of reporting. Overall, 5.2% of WIOA/WP/JVSG participants disclosed having a disability

Financial Toolkit

Financial resiliency underpins the mission of the workforce system, and yet many people with disabilities live below the poverty line. This project focuses on financial tools and resources across the work lifecycle when people with disabilities are: (1) preparing for a job; (2) starting a job; (3) maintaining a job; and (4) losing a job, changing a job, or retiring. The LEAD Center is working with DOL's Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA), ETA, and ODEP on an online financial toolkit, scheduled to be available to the public by the end of 2020. The toolkit will be hosted on the EBSA website.

Those interested in learning more about these efforts, or wishing to inquire about collaboration with the LEAD Center, may contact info@leadcenter.org.