WASHINGTON, D.C. | March 18, 2015
Dear Secretary Perez:
The recently enacted Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) made several important reforms to the Job Corps program in an effort to ensure that program participants, some of our nation’s most disadvantaged youth, receive high quality education, workforce development, and support services in order to become more employable, responsible, and productive citizens. In crafting the new law, Congress devoted considerable attention to problems associated with the Job Corps program in the past, including improving the quality of Job Corps center operators and the process by which the Department selects them.
Passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, WIOA includes important provisions to increase the rigor and competitiveness of the procurement process for Job Corps center operations. To ensure the selection of high quality providers, the law includes several significant changes to the criteria used by the Department to select Job Corps center operators. Under the Act, the Secretary is required to utilize an expanded list of criteria in identifying entities eligible to operate a Job Corps center, such as an applicant’s demonstrated record of effectiveness, including past performance of operating a Job Corps center. These additional requirements added to the law were carefully considered and selected for their potential to help address systemic problems associated with the program and ultimately improve the quality of center operators. Quality should be the guiding factor when choosing operators, and we want to be clear, the intent of Congress is that the Secretary apply all additional selection factors under WIOA for all center competitions from this point forward.
Recently, it has come to the Committee’s attention that since the passage of WIOA approximately two-thirds of the competitively bid Job Corps contracts have been or are being scheduled for contractor selections in advance of the law’s effective date and promulgation of regulations implementing the new statutory requirements for contractor quality. As it is extremely rare that a Job Corps operator does not fulfill their five-year contract even in the case of poor performance, it is crucial that all new operating contracts be awarded based on the enhanced selection criteria so high quality operators can begin to serve program participants now, not years in the future. To that end, we request the Department immediately implement the new WIOA requirements for contractor quality or otherwise defer further center contractor selections by using long accepted procedures, such as bridge contracting and extensions of existing contracts, until such time as these new quality standards can be put into practice.
To read the full letter to Secretary Perez, click here.
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