Leveraging TANF for Career Training

Published jun. 30, 2015

Connections between the workforce and federal assistance programs at the state and local levels have not always been strong. However, that’s about to change as a result of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. In WIOA, Congress took a step that had been discussed within the beltway for almost a decade by requiring that Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) become a mandatory partner in the workforce system (unless a governor decides to exclude TANF).

This new requirement is a great step forward in many ways:

  • Lays the groundwork for system-level coordination, resulting in an improved customer experience
  • Provides impetus for taking critical TANF resources into account in career pathways design 
  • Can facilitate the development of job-driven sector strategies that are inclusive of populations that may have otherwise overlooked

However, much work needs to be done to translate the vision of alignment into reality.

The good news is that the leaders at the federal level are taking important steps to pave the way. Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the “Strengthening Collaboration between TANF and WIOA Stakeholders National Experts Roundtable” that was convened by the Administration for Children and Families’ Office of Family Assistance. This meeting brought together thought leaders from the workforce development and human service fields to discuss opportunities and challenges related to TANF/WIOA collaboration. Some of the issues discussed include performance accountability systems, braided funding strategies, the importance of common intake systems and co-enrollment policies, and strategies for providing professional development to state and local staff. Attendees also provided advice on what strategies and next steps would help move the field forward.

JFF looks forward to continuing these important conversations with federal, state, and local leaders as WIOA requirements go into effect. We believe this is a unique opportunity to drive the creation and expansion of comprehensive career pathways systems that meet the needs of individuals, families, and employers.