Congressman Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, voted today for bipartisan legislation to strengthen and streamline the current system of federal workforce development services in order to better serve the nation’s job seekers, employers, and states. The agreement reached by House and Senate negotiators – H.R. 803, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) – embodies key principles of the House-passed SKILLS Act and combines a modern reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act. H.R. 803 passed by a vote of 415 to 6 and now heads to the President’s desk.
“While we have made much progress to put our economy back on track, the fact remains that millions of Americans continue to struggle to find work,” said Upton. “And while U.S. taxpayers spend billions of dollars each year on a myriad of federal job-training programs, countless positions remain unfilled as workers are not acquiring the critical skills needed to fill in-demand jobs. This bipartisan agreement helps folks acquire the training and skills they need to get back to work and grow our economy.”
WIOA streamlines the confusing web of job-training programs by eliminating 15 ineffective and duplicative workforce programs, the first time that such action has been taken in more than a decade. The legislation establishes common accountability measures for core national programs. Success will now be measured by tracking the number of participants entering and retaining employment, rather than simply counting the numbers enrolled in training programs. WIOA also repeals a dozen federal requirements governing state and local workforce development boards, enabling these important decision-making bodies to more easily address the job-training needs and priorities of their local communities.
WIOA’s commonsense reforms and added flexibility has been widely praised by our nation’s governors and community workforce development organizations.
“WIOA supports what we’ve tried to do locally for years; it streamlines services and allows for the flexibility to strategically meet the needs of the region’s employers,” said Todd Gustafson, executive director of Kinexus, which administers Michigan Works! through its workforce development division. Gustafson testified last year before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce in favor of the reforms sought by the SKILLS Act.
H.R. 803 also provides better coordination of training services by enabling businesses to identify in-demand skills and connect workers with the opportunities to build those skills. Under current bureaucratic requirements, many community colleges and other training providers have been forced out of the system – WIOA fixes that by allowing states to determine eligibility for job-training providers. The bipartisan legislation also permits local areas to contract directly with community colleges and other institutions of higher education to provide specialized group training programs for employers who need to hire several skilled workers.
The legislation also provides improved outreached to individuals with unique barriers to finding employment, such as at-risk youth, low-income workers, and individuals with disabilities.