State auditors question results of $275M workforce development program

Louisiana spent $274.6 million in federal dollars over five years on workforce development programs that often left participants making less money than they had been earning two-to-three quarters before getting the training, the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s office reports. 

Louisiana met its performance indicator targets in fiscal years 2019 through 2022 for Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act programs, and participants gained credentials and skills at a higher rate than those in other states. But they obtained jobs at a lower rate, the jobs often were unrelated to their WIOA training, and most did not earn enough to be self-sufficient, according to the LLA’s review. 

Overall, the Louisiana Workforce Commission believes the WIOA programs have been successful in the state, former LWC Secretary Ava Cates says in her response to the LLA report. 

“We consistently meet our federal performance standards and feel confident that we have accomplished our mission of putting people to work,” she writes, adding that unemployment rates in the state have hit record lows and the number of people employed have hit record highs.

Program funding provided through WIOA flows through several entities, but services primarily are provided through 60 “one-stop” centers throughout the state. The programs the LLA reviewed are 100% federally funded; as such, the LWC is bound by federal rules which “largely fail to take into account the many nuances of a state’s local workforce development areas,” Cates says. 

Additionally, funding is tied to the state’s unemployment rate, so funding falls as the rate does, though the statewide rate doesn’t fully reflect the local areas most affected by decreases in WIOA funding, she adds.  

You can see the LLA’s report here.