New Guidance Addresses ETA Priorities for Youth Workforce Development, Self-Attestation, Paying for Food, and More  

Brent Parton, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Employment and Training Administration (ETA), issued a Guidance Letter (TEGL no. 09-22) on March 2, 2023, that outlines ETA priorities for WIOA Youth programs, clarifies policies related to the program, and encourages improvements in supportive services.

ETA’s core priorities for youth workforce development are 1) advancing equity, 2) ensuring job quality, 3) addressing mental health, and 4) elevating youth voice. These align with DOL’s recently launched Youth Employment Works strategy. The Youth Employment Works strategy seeks to establish a “no-wrong-door” youth workforce system that dramatically improves support service accessibility, availability of guaranteed paid work for young workers, and coordination among public and private partners committed to equitable pathways for youth employment.

The TEGL also offers more details on several program areas that have been the subject of questions from the field over the years.

The TEGL reiterates that self-attestation, defined as a written or electronic signature, is a permissible source of documentation for nearly all elements of WIOA Youth eligibility. Such elements include school status at program entry, date of birth, individual with a disability, pregnant or parenting, among others. “Basic skills deficient,” however, is the only element in which self-attestation would not be permissible. Self-attestation is particularly viable among populations with barriers to obtaining eligibility. As such, ETA strongly advises grant recipients to be mindful of their source documentation policies with regard to equity and accessibility.

In terms of paying for food, ETA’s policy is that WIOA funds may be used to pay for reasonably priced food – “when it will assist or enable the participant to participate in allowable youth program activities and to reach his/her employment and training”. WIOA funds for food should be coordinated with other community, state, and federal services that provide food. Localities should have policies and procedures for purchasing and distributing food.

Mentoring and follow-up services are required program elements under WIOA and are vital in helping youth navigate career pathways. Unfortunately, just 10 percent of youth served under WIOA are reported as receiving mentoring in the last program year, while only 18 percent are reported as receiving follow-up services. The TEGL reiterates that, while the WIOA statute specifies a minimum duration for these services of 12 months, they can be reported as soon as service provision begins. The TEGL encouraged providers to take advantage of resources related to mentoring and follow-up services.

The TEGL underscores the role of workforce providers in assessing and addressing youth mental health. ETA “strongly encourages” providers to integrate integrated mental health assessments into program intake. Mental health assessments are an allowable cost under WIOA and should be conducted for the duration in which youth are actively enrolled. If a workforce provider is unable to provide counseling services of their own, they should coordinate with and refer youth in need of individualized counseling to a mental health service provider.

WIOA Youth program providers are encouraged to fully incorporate trauma-informed care principles and practices into program planning, staffing, training, and implementation. Resources on Trauma and Trauma-Informed Care can better inform workforce providers about the impacts of trauma among young people they serve.

ETA released a Youth Mental Health Resource Guide to help workforce practitioners deliver comprehensive guidance and counseling to youth. The Resource Guide was featured in a webinar hosted by DOL in August 2022 surrounding opportunities to better support youth mental health in our Workforce System. Our colleagues, Mary Ann (Mimi) Haley and Julia Frohlich, were invited as panelists to underscore findings of a national survey we led entitledIdentifying Gaps in Youth Employment Programs’ Capacity to Address Youth Mental Health