As the House Committee on Education and the Workforce looks to start work on reauthorizing the Workforce Investment Act, which is the preeminent federal employment service and job training law, Congressmen John Tierney (D-MA), Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX), and George Miller (D-CA) held a conference call with reporters today to announce their blueprint for how to strengthen and modernize this critical law. Later today, the lawmakers will introduce sweeping legislation to expand opportunities for workers, help businesses staff high-skilled and open positions, and assure that tax-payer dollars are being spent wisely and efficiently.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 3.5 million open positions nationwide, many that cannot be filled due to a lack of qualified candidates. In an effort to solve this job crisis, the House Democrats' legislation -- entitled the Workforce Investment Act of 2012 - will strengthen the existing system by streamlining and increasing access to training, promoting innovation, and ensuring accountability and transparency.
"Patrick Cole is a veteran from Lynn, Massachusetts in my district who was laid off from his job as a carpenter. After struggling to find work, Patrick enrolled in a manufacturing certificate program spearheaded by the North Shore Workforce Investment Board along with North Shore Community College and General Electric. Now Patrick is one of 17 people in this program who will have a job when he completes the program in June. The bill we're introducing today will strengthen and modernize the workforce system and enable this kind of innovative partnership to be replicated and accelerated nationwide. This bill supports workers and businesses, and it is critical for our country's continued economic recovery," said Congressman Tierney (D-MA), the only Member from New England on the House Education and the Workforce Committee.
"This bill reaches out to all Americans, in particular it is a win for workers in rural America. This bill authorizes increased investments in technology and digital literacy, as well as enhances online training and other technological improvements which allow rural residents to receive training in a high growth, high demand occupations. I look forward to working with my colleagues to reauthorize WIA and strengthen our nation's public workforce training and adult education system. Now more than ever, we must put American workers first and help them to access good, family-sustaining jobs and careers and achieve a better quality of life," said Congressman Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX), the Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training.
"Workforce development programs are an important part of the nation's economic recovery and job creation efforts. The bill introduced today creates a modern workforce investment system and provides new opportunities for Americans to enter the middle class," said Rep. George Miller (D-CA), the senior Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee. "While the economy is turning around, there is much more work to be done to help the millions of Americans without a job, especially for the long-term unemployed. Now is not the time to gut the Workforce Investment Act's mission, like some are proposing."
"This bill is an important, positive step toward strengthening and modernizing the nation's workforce investment system. We look forward to working with the Committee to advance a final bill that ensures that all U.S. workers and businesses have access to the skills they need to compete and prosper," said Andy Van Kleunen, the Executive Director of the National Skills Coalition.
Workforce organizations across the country are announcing their support for this legislation as well.
David Bradley of the National Workforce Association endorsed the Workforce Investment Act of 2012 saying, "Thank you for all you have done for America's workers, we look forward to continue working with you on this vital piece of legislation to combat the 21st century employment challenges and restoring economic prosperity."
The Workforce Investment Act (WIA) was enacted in 1998 to establish a framework for how federally-funded employment and training services would be delivered in this country. The law created local workforce investment boards (WIB) made up of stakeholders including business representatives, labor organizations, educational institutions, economic development agencies, and community-based organizations.
The Workforce Investment Act of 2012 will build on the current systems by helping to cut out some of the red tape that is slowing down the process of getting men and women the resources they need, by strengthening the Workforce Innovation Fund, a competitive grant program to support the development of new strategies, by expanding the role of community colleges, involving more businesses and partnerships, and by increasing the use of on-the-job training, incumbent worker training, transitional jobs, paid work experience so that individuals can learn and work and enter/renter the labor market more quickly.