Workforce training to get a boost
The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act works to solve a problem that’s familiar to any employer in search of talent.
It governs a web of federal programs meant to train people and help them find jobs.
Its reach is vast: the legislation – expected to be signed into law by President Obama after having won passage in both chambers of Congress – authorizes employment centers that help with resume-writing, job searches, English as a second language instruction and on-the-job training.
It has specific programs targeting particularly vulnerable groups, such as laid-off workers and disabled veterans. The law also authorizes GEAR UP grants to improve college access for disadvantaged youth.
It all amounts to several billion dollars of jobs training, but the patchwork of programs the bill governs were universally seen as dated and have been increasingly vulnerable to funding cuts.
The legislation was originally enacted in 1998 but lapsed. Efforts to renew the measure had been stalled since it was due for reauthorization, in 2003, but in May members of Congress reached agreement on a compromise bill in a rare act of bipartisanship.
The Senate overwhelmingly approved the measure in June and the House followed suit last week.
The National Association of Manufacturers welcomed the bill’s passage. Its vice president of HR Policy, Joe Trauger, issued this statement after the House passed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act with overwhelming bipartisan support:
“House lawmakers took a critical step toward closing the skills gap today, and manufacturers commend these policymakers for addressing this important issue. Eighty percent of manufacturers are having moderate to serious difficulty in finding the necessary skilled workers to maintain a 21st-century operation.
“The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act provides much needed streamlining of skills certification programs and directs the necessary funding to ensure manufacturers have the workforce they need to compete in a globally competitive environment.
“Passage of this important legislation is essential to ensuring that the United States maintains its ownership of the most outstanding, productive and innovative workforce in the world. Manufacturers urge the president to sign this bill into law to put the benefits of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act into action.”
There was no doubt the president would sign the bill. Here’s his statement after the House acted:
“I applaud the overwhelming majority of lawmakers from both parties who came together on behalf of American workers to pass the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014. This bipartisan compromise will help workers … and (the) support services that give them the chance to advance their careers and secure the good jobs of the future. Today’s vote helps ensure that our workers can earn the skills employers are looking for right now and that American businesses have the talent pool it takes to compete and win in our global economy.”