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Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. COBURN. Madam President, I thank my colleague from Wyoming for allowing me to jump in for about 5 minutes.

This became an issue as we faced the greatest recession we have ever had and, at the same time, we had GAO looking at how we are spending our money.

For just a little history so everybody will know, when GAO did their first report we had 47 separate job training programs run by nine different agencies, and that year they looked at we spent $18.5 billion. What we found is only two had metrics on them, and we weren't even paying attention to the metrics to use them.

I applaud the work of the HELP Committee, Senator Enzi, Senator Isakson, Senator Alexander, Senator Murray, and Senator Harkin, for bringing the bill to the floor. It is an improvement over what we are doing, but I wish to offer a couple of points I think the American people ought to know. We are not going anywhere far enough, not anywhere close to where we need to go.

The SKILLS Act coming out of the House markedly changed job training in this country. Now, this is a big modification to the SKILLS Act, but the SKILLS Act actually paid attention to the Government Accountability Office. What they did is consolidate a lot of programs and put real metrics and real competition into job training.

There are two critical flaws in this bill that I think are a mistake--and I know this bill is going to pass, so it is moving the ball down the road. No. 1, there is no metric in the job training program to say: Did somebody get a job in the area that they were trained for?

So it doesn't matter how many people we train. If there is no job and they got no job for what they trained, we have wasted the money. So that is not anywhere in the bill.

The second thing is the vast majority of money in this country that is spent on job training is Job Corps. When we ask behind the scenes why we didn't have major reform to Job Corps, it is because of all of the parochial people they employ. In Oklahoma, it is over 1,000. Most of the Job Corps programs in Oklahoma are highly inefficient and failing to do what we want them to do, and they are not going to be held accountable with this bill.

So these are two really disastrous things that, had they been added, would have made a real difference. And let me say why I can speak to that. When the GAO put out their report on all the job training programs, I had every one of my staffers in Oklahoma go to every job training, State and Federal, in Oklahoma. Let me tell you what we found.

What we found was the Federal programs were totally failing. We were very good at employing people in job training programs with Federal money, but when we looked for the outcome of whether we gave somebody a skill that gave them an ability to have a life, we failed.

Contrast that to Oklahoma's Career Tech system and their own State-funded training programs, where they were 90-percent effective in giving somebody a life skill.

So I am disappointed that the SKILLS Act didn't come over here and get voted on because that was what was in the SKILLS Act and it is really accomplishing the goal.

My colleagues have been great with me in working on this bill to try to attest to and to accommodate my desires to see some changes. But there are these two critical flaws, and it speaks to the lack of courage in our country today that because we have people employed in Job Corps programs, we are not going to really shake that system up and make it do what it needs to do.

I will never forget. I had a town hall meeting in Guthrie, OK, the largest Job Corps training in Oklahoma, and I wrote a report that was highly critical of it. They all came here, and I faced them down and said: Do you really want Federal Government money spent on your salary that doesn't accomplish the goal of giving somebody a life skill? They couldn't answer yes. They had to answer, no, they really didn't want that.

But that is what Job Corps still is in this bill, and that is by far the biggest job training program we have.

So I applaud the changes that we have made, the movements that have gone forward. But when there is no metrics on whether the skill that was trained for got a job, we don't have any idea what we are going to be measuring after this bill goes through.

No. 2, if we have not fundamentally gutted the present Job Corps system and changed it to where it is responsible to actually accomplish a goal and hold them accountable--like we need to be holding the VA accountable--if we don't do that, we haven't really fixed anything.

This bill has no CBO score on it. It is at least $58 billion over the next 6 years--at least. And we are going to vote on a bill again that doesn't have a score.

So the intentions of my colleagues are pure, but I think they are missing two critical provisions if they really want to fix job training. I thank them for their work. I appreciate their accommodation. I know this bill will pass and it is an improvement, but it is not going to fix the fundamental problems.

I yield the floor.

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