Integrated English Literacy and Civics Education: WIOA II Funding and Training for English Learners

Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) was established to provide support in removing barriers to employment for the American public through training and education. The goal is to move participants into high-quality jobs and careers while helping employers hire and retain skilled workers. Recently, WIOA added Integrated English Literacy & Civics Education (IELCE) to WIOA Title II to address barriers that English language learners face.

Under section 243 of WIOA law, IELCE is defined as: “education services provided to English language learners who are adults, including professionals with degrees and credentials in their native countries that enable such adults to achieve competency in the English language and acquire the basic and more advanced skills needed to function effectively as parents, workers, and citizens in the United States. Such services shall include instruction in literacy and English language acquisition and instruction on the rights and responsibilities of citizenship and civic participation, and may include workforce training.” Services must be offered in combination with integrated education and training activities.

IELCE is a welcome addition to current services available to assist English language learners in achieving their employment or post-secondary education goals. It is crucial to note that clients with low English proficiency, or pre-literate individuals, must first attend bridge programs to meet the requirements for IELCE. A bridge program could be an existing ESL class focused on getting clients to an IELCE eligible English level or refugee employment programming that targets immediate needs and job readiness.

One potential model of IELCE programming is the iBest Program in Washington State. The iBest Program pairs two instructors in the classroom, one to teach professional and technical subject matter and the other to teach basic skills in reading, math, writing or English language. This allows students to gain the workforce training alongside education to obtain certifications or credentials faster than traditional programs.

Important Considerations

IELCE is a new addition to the WIOA law and implementation is currently just beginning. As activities and programming are incorporated or created, it is essential for those working one-on-one with English language learners, like refugees, to advocate for their clients during the application of these programs.

Increasing English learners access to WIOA through IELCE offer opportunities to obtain certifications in local high demand fields. Increased access to opportunities likely means increasing wages, higher-skilled positions, new employer relationships, and more.

Each state is different and can design and implement IELCE differently, to learn more about your state’s plans for implementation of IELCE and advocate for refugee access, contact your state director of adult education.

For Technical Assistance regarding IELCE, contact the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE).

For more information regarding your state’s WIOA plan, see the WIOA State Plans

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