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On July 22, Business Leaders United for Workforce Partnerships (BLU) weighed in with policymakers in support of two key pieces of workforce legislation—the Strengthening Employment Clusters to Organize Regional Success (SECTORS) Act of 2013 (S. 1226) and the Community College to Career Fund Act(S. 1269). Both bills would improve employer engagement with the workforce development system by supporting employer-driven partnerships.
The SECTORS Act, introduced by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Susan Collins (R-ME), would create new capacity to support sector partnerships and specific performance measures to recognize and reward states that are effectively engaging employers. States, regions, or local areas receiving SECTORS grants would be required to carefully analyze which industries will drive growth in their local and regional economies, understand the skill levels of the existing workforce and identify skills gaps, and develop industry-based strategies to create a skilled worker pipeline for employers. Companion legislation was introduced in the House by Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-IA).
The Community College to Career Act, introduced by Senator Al Franken (D-MN), would replace the existing Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College & Career Training (TAACCCT) grants that are set to expire at the end of 2014. Building upon the infrastructure created by the SECTORS Act, the fund would help support training activities that are relevant to employers, closing regional skills gaps by better linking community colleges to industry partnerships. Companion legislation was introduced in the House by Rep. George Miller (D-CA), Ranking Member on the Education and Workforce Committee.
BLU employers also wrote to Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA), Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and other members of the committee urging them to incorporate these two bills into Workforce Investment Act (WIA) reauthorization legislation.
BLU employers explained:
Each of us is working with a sector partnership in our local area because it is an effective tool that helps us better meet our skilled workforce needs, and we feel strongly that federal policy should better support this work. Sector strategies are an effective tool for employers and a critical part of a broad national skills strategy. In order to grow our businesses and compete in a global economy, we must be able to find workers with the appropriate skills to help drive growth. For these reasons, we believe that legislation to reauthorize WIA must include investments specifically targeted to programs that effectively engage employers to ensure the education and training provided is relevant to the needs of employers. The SECTORS Act and the Community College to Career Fund Act accomplish this goal and should be incorporated into the Senate WIA reauthorization bill.
The Senate HELP Committee is expected to consider WIA reauthorization legislation before the August recess. BLU and National Skills Coalition strongly support efforts to improve employer engagement through WIA reauthorization, and believe sector partnerships are among the most effective ways to do so.