SKILLS Act is Wrong Direction for America’s Workforce and Industry

March 15, 2013

Individuals with Greatest Barriers Left Behind, Employers not Effectively Engaged

Today, the House of Representatives passed the Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Learning (SKILLS) Act (H.R. 803), a bill to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), by a vote of 215 to 202. The legislation would consolidate 35 existing federal employment and training programs into a single $6 billion Workforce Investment Fund. National Skills Coalition opposes the legislation, which is being used to justify steep cuts to workforce training in the House budget proposal.

“The SKILLS Act will likely reduce access to federally-funded skills training, particularly for those individuals with the greatest barriers to employment,” said Rachel Gragg, federal policy director for National Skills Coalition. “This legislation assumes a ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to employment and job training programs. Our workforce is diverse and our federal workforce development system needs to be inclusive to all workers. The legislation fails to support best practices for engaging employers and diminishes the input of other key stakeholders.”

There are 12 million unemployed U.S. workers yet 3.6 million job openings are waiting to be filled. Despite an unemployment rate that remains near 8 percent, jobs are going unfilled, in part at least, because employers are unable to find workers with the right skills. Congress needs to invest in our nation’s workers, and policymakers must work together to strengthen and improve our federal workforce system. Unfortunately, the SKILLS Act is being used as a vehicle to make deep cuts to job training programs instead of enacting real reforms that are good for workers, employers, and our economy.

National Skills Coalition believes any WIA reauthorization legislation should meet three goals: enhancing the effectiveness of our workforce system to meet the skill needs of all U.S. workers and businesses; strengthening accountability; and promoting innovation by building on the lessons learned and best practices developed over the past 15 years by the workforce field. The SKILLS Act fails to do that.

Investing in a skilled workforce is not a partisan issue, and policymakers on both sides of the aisle should recognize the urgent need to address the skills gap to maintain America’s competitiveness in our global economy. Members of Congress must advance bipartisan legislation that makes real investments that get workers the skills they need to get the good-paying jobs that employers need filled.