Career Services Left out of Senate Workforce Bill

By Megan Evans, Caroline Treschitta, July 10, 2024
This blog is the third in a three-part analysis of the Senate workforce bill.
TLDR: it’s better than the House version, but true modernization will take more than what’s included.
  • For the first blog, which describes how the proposed bill lacks critical investments, click here.
  • For the second blog, which describes how overly strict accountability measures could hurt businesses and local areas, click here.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee recently released a draft for reauthorizing the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). Though the bill is an improvement on the House’s bill, A Stronger Workforce for America Act (ASWA) the bill needs several improvements before it can get our coalition’s full support.

After conducting in-depth listening sessions with a wide range of partners in 2022, NSC prioritized a set of policy recommendations designed to transform WIOA from an underfunded system to one that is resourced to deliver high-quality skills training, support working people, help small businesses, and advance racial equity.

In those discussions, stakeholders agreed that Congress should Strengthen the delivery of equity-advancing WIOA career services through funding career navigation services, training frontline workers who deliver them, and piloting service delivery partnerships with culturally responsive, equity-focused service providers.

Career coaching and navigation are key to supporting working people in achieving their career goals and promoting racial equity in the workforce. The Senate draft takes steps in the right direction by increasing the allocation that can be used on professional development for frontline and providing a more detailed description of professional development activities.

NSC also warned that consolidated workforce areas could risk inequitable services

Both ASWA and the Senate draft introduced a notable change that would allow states to potentially redesignate and consolidate these local areas into a single area. The Senate adds parameters that limit this redesignation to states with populations of 5 million or fewer, or those with fewer than 5 local areas. Additionally, the draft includes a pilot program for up to four states with populations below 5 million people to receive state allocations as a consolidated sum, effectively creating a single local area state if it was not one previously. While this approach could work for some states, centralizing workforce system decisions at the state level risks inequitable spending that may harm rural areas and areas with the greatest number of individuals with barriers to employment. This approach risks reducing government spending on our already-fraught workforce development system, restricting program eligibility, and making it more difficult to measure outcomes.

This model could also harm small and mid-sized businesses, who are more likely to engage the workforce system at the local level. For instance, as contracting responsibilities would be centralized, the state may favor larger companies that drive more revenue over smaller ones that contribute to local economies.

While centralization offers certain efficiencies, there is a need for a balanced approach. NSC recommends revising the population threshold from 5 million to 1 million, citing concerns that similar shifts in other programs such as TANF and Medicare have led to less localized and less fair services, contrary to the goals of workforce development.


  • For NSC’s full analysis on ASWA – click here.
  • For a side by side comparing WIOA with ASWA – click here.

Other Notable Changes

  • Youth Apprenticeship Readiness Grant Program: The Senate bill creates a new section of WIOA that aims to increase youth earnings and employment by supporting competitive grants to develop or expand pre-apprenticeships and apprenticeships for youth. Grant priority would be given to areas with significant workforce shortages in certain industries, entities with a demonstrated track record of expanding high quality employment opportunities and career pathways for individuals with barriers to employment, and entities serving a population located in rural or urban community with area median income of 150% of poverty line.
  • State Plan Timelines: While ASWA kept the timeline for state plans while making the mid-plan optional, the Senate bill instead extends the state plan to five years and moves the mid-plan to the third year.
  • Strengthening Community College Training Grants: ASWA codified the grant program, but the Senate draft does not.
  • Paid Work Experiences for Youth: The Senate bill increases the amount of funding allocated to local areas for youth activities that is required to be used for paid and unpaid work experiences to 30%. Of that funding, 1/3 must be used for apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeships for youth
  • Studies and Reports: The Senate bill adds 5 new studies on Individual training accounts for dislocated workers, Effectiveness and Use of Emerging Technology in the Workforce Development System, the Use and Effectiveness of Statewide Rapid Response Activities, the Provision and Effects of Supportive Services, and Alignment Between Education and Workforce Development Systems that were not included in ASWA and removes the study on Statewide Critical Industry Skills Funds as that program is not included in the upper chamber’s draft text.

What’s Next

NSC submitted our full analysis of the WIOA reauthorization bill to the Senate HELP committee for their consideration. The discussion draft will likely go for bipartisan negotiations between the House and Senate chambers. However, there is a tight timeline given the Senate is only in session for a few more weeks until November, during a time when election dynamics will heavily influence what is brought to the Congressional floor.

In the meantime, if you have the authority to sign on your organization – please can add your organization’s name to this letter calling for more workforce funding, as well as this letter calling on passing short term Pell legislation.