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Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. HINOJOSA. Madam Chair, I rise today to oppose H.R. 803, a fatally flawed and highly partisan bill that would weaken our Nation's current public workforce training and adult education system at a time when millions of Americans continue to struggle to find good, family-sustaining jobs in our Nation's economy.

Simply put, H.R. 803 would take our Nation in the wrong direction, making it more difficult for individuals with barriers to employment to receive the education and training services they need to get back on track.

The SKILLS Act repeals and consolidates 35 WIA programs that provide invaluable training to adults, youth, veterans, farm workers, dislocated workers, and many others.

This fatally flawed bill eliminates the priority of service delivery for low-income adults and out-of-school youth, despite the high levels of unemployment rates for youth of color and low-skilled workers.

This fatally flawed legislation strikes State and local board representation for unions, community colleges, and community-based organizations, moving away from some of the key tenets of WIA. It was set up so that 51 percent of the seats on that board of directors would be represented for the business community and 49 percent for those who are not the employers and businesses, but those that I mentioned. That type of diversity is very necessary, such as collaboration, inclusion, strategic partnerships that work to improve people's lives.

Finally, this fatally flawed bill freezes program funding authorization for fiscal years 2014-2020. I must underscore that job training and unemployment services for WIA have already been cut 50 percent since 2011.

How can Congress freeze funding for WIA the next 6 years when we have millions of men and women year after year who need training? How can WIA boards do their job if the inflation costs and the increase of operating costs like utilities, wages, insurance of properties and for health insurance continue to increase?

For these reasons, it is no surprise that at least 50 organizations strongly oppose or have concerns about this misguided legislation, including the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National League of Cities, the National Council of La Raza, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the National Skills Coalition, the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs, the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, Easter Seals, the AFL-CIO, the National Coalition for Literacy, National Youth Employment. They go on and on.

I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to vote against H.R. 803.

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Mr. HINOJOSA. Mr. Chairman, I rise today in strong support of the Tierney, Hinojosa, and Miller amendment in the nature of a substitute because the Congress has a responsibility to modernize our Nation's public workforce training and adult educational system.

Putting America back to work must be a top priority for Congress and the Nation. This Tierney-Hinojosa-Miller amendment would bolster the role of community colleges in job training by authorizing President Obama's $8 billion Community College to Career Fund. It would develop a 21st century system for adult education literacy and workplace services. It would engage our Nation's youth through multiple pathways to success. It would create competitive employment services and opportunities for individuals with disabilities. And yes, it would improve accountability and transparency through performance measures and reporting.

Importantly, the Democratic substitute bill would strengthen rather than eliminate the priority for low skilled and low-income adults under WIA.

Today, our current public workforce and adult education system provides an invaluable range of services, including education, occupational skills training, career counseling, job search assistance, adult education, English language literacy, and civics education. And yes, it provides job placement services to populations with unique barriers to employment.

These populations include migrant and seasonal farm workers, Native Americans, people with disabilities, veterans, older workers, people who are homeless, low-income youth, low-skilled workers, English learners, ex-offenders, and women seeking nontraditional employment opportunities.

In the 12-month period ending September 30, 2012, WIA programs provided services to 32.8 million people, as well as hundreds of thousands of employers across the country, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

While our current WIA system is providing much-needed education and training and reemployment services, the Tierney-Hinojosa-Miller amendment would modernize our current WIA system. It would prepare greater numbers of unemployed and underemployed Americans for jobs in health care, advanced manufacturing, and high-growth industries and sectors that require specialized skills for these positions, and it would ensure that our most vulnerable populations are served.

In closing, Mr. Chairman, I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join me in voting for the Tierney-Hinojosa-Miller amendment in the nature of a substitute and do what is right for the millions of unemployed individuals.

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