House approves legislation to reform workforce development system

The House of Representatives approved bipartisan legislation on Wednesday that would modernize the country’s workforce development system to provide job seekers with skills that today’s employers demand.

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) was approved by the Senate last month and will now advance to President Obama for consideration.

The measure would eliminate 15 standing programs and apply the same evaluation standards to every federal workforce program in an effort to make the system less fragmented. Intake, case management and reporting systems would be integrated under the bill to improve the evaluation process.

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Ranking Member Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), a co-sponsor of the legislation, said the bill would simplify job training programs.

“Last year the federal government spent more than $145 million in Tennessee through a maze of programs trying to help Tennesseans find jobs, and this legislation simplifies that maze,” Alexander said. “This bill will help our nation’s workers gain the skills to find jobs and give governors and local workforce boards the freedom and flexibility to make job training meet their local needs.”

The bill would align workforce development programs with economic development initiatives to provide in-demand training for workers. It would also provide assistance to individuals with disabilities and enhance youth outreach efforts.

“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,” Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said. “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.”

The measure incorporated a number of provisions outlined in the Careers through Responsive, Efficient and Effective Retraining Act, which was introduced by Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio).

“For too many Americans, the only jobs that are available are those they don’t have the skills or qualifications to fill,” Portman said. “This has created a skills gap that is hurting unemployed workers and businesses and is holding back the economy. For the past three years, I have worked in a bipartisan fashion to help these workers get back on a career path by bringing critical reforms to the federal government’s inefficient and outdated workforce development system. I am pleased that today the House passed these reforms along with the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, bringing the federal government’s primary workforce development programs into the 21st century.”