Today, Congressman Sanford Bishop (GA-02) released a statement regarding his vote on H.R. 803, the Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills (SKILLS) Act. The SKILLS Act consolidates 35 individual workforce investment programs into one block grant without evidence that it would improve the delivery of job training services. It also freezes investment in workforce investment programs; eliminates the current requirement that community-based organizations, community colleges, labor, and others are represented on Workforce Investment Boards, and abolishes the Disabled Veterans Outreach Program and the Senior Community Service Employment Program. Consequently, it puts at risk services for disadvantaged populations, including disabled veterans, youth, workers with disabilities, women, and older workers. Congressman Bishop opposed this bill.
"Developing the Nation's workforce so that it can succeed in the 21st century's economy is vital for the future," said Congressman Bishop. "It makes little sense to weaken our current workforce investment system as the economy continues to grow. America's workforce deserves better."
Congressman Bishop did support a Democratic substitute which improves the existing workforce system by better streamlining and continuing the operation of job training, adult education, and post-secondary education programs; extending common reporting and performance measures across all programs; expanding the central role that community colleges play in job training; and strengthening state employment operations.
Passage of H.R. 803 will harm low-income individuals and other disadvantaged populations by eliminating separate programs that target assistance to specific working groups. Though meant to cuts costs in the WIA, the Congressional Budget Office says the bill actually provides no budgetary savings. The bill also eliminates the current requirement that community-based organizations, community colleges, labor, and others are represented on Workforce Investment Boards.
The SKILLS Act is opposed by the National Educational Association, the U.S. Conference of Mayors; the National League of Cities, the National Association of Workforce Boards, Easter Seals, Goodwill Industries International, National Coalition for Literacy, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and scores of other pro-workforce development organizations.
H.R. 803 was approved by a vote of 215 to 202.