Who said bipartisanship is dead in Washington? It just requires the right legislation! Finally, a long-awaited jobs promotion bill was approved that aims to help train and prepare workers with the twenty-first century skills necessary for employment.
This week, legislation to update the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), overdue for reauthorization for more than a decade, was overwhelmingly approved on a bipartisan vote of 415-to-6 by the U.S. House of Representatives and by the U.S. Senate last month on a vote of 95-to-3. The bill is headed to the White House where it will be signed into law by President Obama.
The new Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) will update, improve, and consolidate the nation’s workforce development system, help workers attain skills for twenty-first century jobs, provide support for people with disabilities to enter and remain in the workforce, and foster a modern workforce that businesses can rely on. In addition to winning strong bipartisan support in both houses of Congress, the legislation was supported by a broad array of leaders in the labor, business, and workforce development communities, disability advocates, and governors and mayors from around the country.
In a nutshell, among the many provisions of the over 800-page new law, WIOA will,
- reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act for six years while eliminating 15 unnecessary or duplicative federal programs;
- specify authorized appropriation levels for each of the fiscal years from 2015 through 2020;
- support workforce development activities, including job searching, career development, and job training through more than 3,000 “one-stop” career centers nationwide;
- improve employment services for youth, people with disabilities, and veterans;
- emphasize access to real-world training opportunities, such as the following:
- increased ability to use on-the-job-training (reimbursement rates up to 75 percent for eligible employers), incumbent worker training (may use up to 20 percent of local funding), and customized training;
- pay-for-performance training contracts for adults and youth (local boards may use up to 10 percent of funds); and
- implementation of industry or sector partnerships and career pathway strategies
- require 75 percent of youth funding to support out-of-school youths, of which 20 percent is prioritized for work-to-school activities;
- improve services to English language learners; and
- provide training for the disabled, including providing youth with disabilities the services and support necessary to be successful in competitive, integrated employment.
In a press release issued after WIOA’s passage, conservative House Chairman of the Education and the Workforce Committee John Kline stated,
Today is a good day for the American people. We’ve shown what’s possible when we work together toward a common goal and right now there is no greater goal than putting Americans back to work. This bipartisan, bicameral agreement will fix a broken job training system, help workers fill in-demand jobs, and protect taxpayers. I am proud to have helped lead this effort and want to thank my Republican and Democrat colleagues in the House and Senate for their hard work. Let’s build off today’s achievement and continue working together on behalf of the American people.