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National Skills Coalition recently released a side-by-side comparisonof occupational training and adult education and family literacy provisions in current law to legislation in the House and Senate to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act (WIA).
In March, the House passed the SKILLS Act (H.R. 803), legislation authored by Higher Education and Workforce Training subcommittee chair Virginia Foxx (R-NC). The SKILLS Act would eliminate 35 existing programs and consolidate the funding into a single Workforce Investment Fund. National Skills Coalition estimates that consolidation of workforce programs by the SKILLS Act would result in a net loss of more than $1 billion in funding for workforce development activities, and could have the effect of reducing access to services for those individuals who face significant barriers to employment. National Skills Coalition opposes the SKILLS Act in its current form.
The Senate released its WIA reauthorization bill, the Workforce Investment Act of 2013 (S.1356), in July and cleared it through the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee. The Senate bill—crafted on a bipartisan basis by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA), ranking member of the Employment and Workplace Safety subcommittee—does not include consolidation language similar to the House. The Senate bill has yet to be considered by the full Senate.
WIA, originally authorized in 1998, is now more than a decade overdue for congressional reauthorization. In the years since its passage, WIA has failed to keep pace with changing economic conditions. The law’s original emphasis on short-term training and rapid re-employment is increasingly inconsistent with growing demands for longer-term training aligned to high-growth and emerging industries.
Administrative barriers make it difficult for local providers to help participants who require multiple services, undermining the law’s vision for cross-program alignment. Steady declines in funding—formula funding decreased by nearly 30 percent over the last decade—have made it ever more difficult to meet the needs of participants. Many state and local systems have adopted innovative strategies despite the limitations of current law, but these efforts could be greatly strengthened if federal policy is updated to reflect best practices in the field.
National Skills Coalition will provide updates as additional information becomes available.