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WIA Youth Services and Individuals with Disabilities

The Workforce Investment Act (WIA) establishes a coordinated system to help low-income young people between the ages of 14 and 21 define their educational and career goals. Low-income youth are eligible to receive employment and training services through funds allotted to states on a formula basis. Services are provided throughout the year, under the direction of Youth Councils, which WIA requires be established in each local workforce area. WIA provides a comprehensive service strategy for youth, with year-round services for eligible youth.

What are the types of youth activities that are available under WIA?

WIA states that the following services must be made available to participants in youth programs*:

  1. Tutoring, study skills training, and instruction leading to secondary school completion, including dropout prevention strategies.
  2. Alternative secondary school offerings.
  3. Summer employment opportunities directly linked to academic and occupational learning.
  4. Paid and unpaid work experiences, including internships and job shadowing.
  5. Occupational skill training.
  6. Leadership development opportunities, including such activities as positive social behavior and soft skills, decision making, team work, and other activities.
  7. Supportive services.
  8. Adult mentoring for a duration of at least twelve (12) months, that may occur both during and after program participation.
  9. Follow-up services.
  10. Comprehensive guidance and counseling, including drug and alcohol abuse counseling, as well as referrals to counseling, as appropriate to the needs of the individual youth..

Local programs have the discretion to determine what specific program services will be provided to a youth participant, based on each participants objective assessment and individual service strategy.

In what ways are youth with disabilities considered eligible for WIA youth services?

While young people with disabilities can qualify for youth services under the same criteria as any other individual, WIA includes provisions to ensure that youth with disabilities have additional opportunities to participate.

  • When determining income criteria for eligibility, for youth with disabilities WIA considers only the personal income of the teenager, not the income of his/her family.
  • Up to five percent of participants in youth programs do not have to meet income criteria, as long as they are from specific populations, one of which is youth with disabilities.
  • Low-income youth with disabilities who need additional assistance to complete an educational program or to secure and hold employment are specifically designated as eligible for youth services.
  • Any youth who meets the income eligibility criteria for receiving cash payments from any Federal, state, or local public assistance program (such as SSI benefits from Social Security), is automatically eligible for youth services.

The bottom line: given these criteria, many if not most young people with disabilities ages 14-21 are eligible for youth services under WIA.