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Reauthorization Bill Makes the Right Investments in America’s Workforce
National Skills Coalition urges Congress to pass the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) of 2013 introduced last week by Representatives John Tierney (D-MA), Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX) and George Miller (D-CA). The legislation, which reauthorizes WIA for the first time since its passage in 1998, is an important step toward strengthening and modernizing the nation’s workforce investment system.
“Investments in America’s workforce are critical to fill available middle-skill jobs that require more than a high school education but not a four-year degree,” said Andy Van Kleunen, executive director of National Skills Coalition. “This bill will make critical improvements to WIA that will increase accountability, promote innovation, and better document how training dollars are meeting the needs of U.S. workers and employers.”
The bill would improve employer through innovative partnerships that bring together multiple firms within an industry with education and training providers to ensure that workers are trained in the skills needed by the industries in the community. It also supports the development of career pathways models that aligns adult education, job training, postsecondary education, and supportive services to provide employment and training pathways for workers at various skill levels and stages in their careers.
Adjusted for inflation, federal funding for occupational training under WIA has declined by more than 45 percent since 2002, forcing many states to choose whether to spend limited funds between maintaining infrastructure and providing training. To better prioritize training services over infrastructure costs, the bill creates a separate line-item for infrastructure spending and a requirement that states establish a minimum training percentage as part of their state plans.
National Skills Coalition also supports the bill’s provision to require each state to develop quantifiable benchmarks demonstrating annual improvement to program alignment, engaging employers in the workforce system, expanding access to training, and increasing credential attainment in order to have readily assessable measurements of workforce programs and identify promising practices that can be replicated.