Today, U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Tom Harkin (D-IA), and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) introduced a bipartisan bill to re-authorize the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), legislation first passed by Congress in 1998 and overdue for re-authorization since 2003. The bill contains crucial adjustments to the original WIA legislation that reflect the ever-changing global economy, input from business, education, and labor groups, and more than a decade of experience with existing programs.
"In a time when bipartisan legislation is hard to come by, I've been thrilled to work with my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to update our workforce training programs and help put millions of Americans back to work," said Senator Murray. "This bill is important for so many reasons, but first among them is the input and cooperation we've had from Senators on both sides of the aisle, businesses of all sizes, labor groups, and education leaders who all want to make our economy stronger."
"I am pleased to join with my Senate colleagues from both sides of the aisle to introduce and begin work on this important, long-overdue legislation," said Senator Isakson. "I look forward to a debate in the Senate that will allow us to address the needs of businesses and employees in a global environment."
"This reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act takes important steps to help workers get access to the job search and training services and supports they need, and I commend Senators Murray and Isakson for their leadership in drafting this bipartisan bill," said Senator Harkin, Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee. "I am pleased to have worked closely with Ranking Member Alexander to make important updates to Title V, the title of WIA that reauthorizes the Rehabilitation Act, including vocational rehabilitation programs. These changes will help make sure that people with disabilities-- especially transition-age youth and those with intellectual disabilities--have increased preparation and opportunities for competitive, integrated employment. Our proposal also seeks to better align government programs at the national level that are focused on employment and independent living for people with disabilities."
"With unemployment still at 7.6 percent, Americans can't afford to waste any time training for skills that employers don't need," said Senator Alexander, Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee. "This bill takes a step in the right direction to update our workforce investment programs--one that I hope will help prevent taxpayer dollars from being wasted and will help train American workers for jobs that our nation's employers are filling."
Of the more than 50 million new American jobs projected to be created by 2018, 30 million will require postsecondary education, but currently, the American workforce is projected to fall short of that number by more than 3 million workers, creating a significant skills gap and a competitive disadvantage in the global marketplace.
To help grow the American economy still recovering from recession and address the widening skills gap separating thousands of unemployed workers from good-paying jobs, the WIA re-authorization bill introduced today contains significant improvements to existing job training programs and local workforce systems originally authorized under WIA in 1998. It also responds to a 2011 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on WIA programs by consolidating administrative burdens through use of a unified plan in each state, common performance measures, and a move to regional service delivery.
The bill introduced today:
- Includes a strong emphasis on effective use of real-world data, performance indicators, and stringent assessments and evaluations to determine the impact of workforce investments.
- Empowers state and local workforce agencies to tailor their programs to specific needs.
- Emphasizes real-world education training opportunities, including: on-the-job training, incumbent worker training, customized training, transitional jobs, and sector strategies.
- Maintains business majorities while shrinking state and local boards.
- Closely aligns workforce systems with regional economic development and labor markets.
- Applies one set of common performance metrics to each workforce program supported by WIA.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee will begin markup of the WIA re-authorization bill on Wednesday, July 31st.