U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said House passage of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act today sends to the president's desk legislation "that will help Tennessee attract more high quality, good paying jobs." Alexander sponsored this legislation to improve job training programs in the Senate, where it passed last month by a vote of 95 to 3.
The measure passed the House today by a vote of 415 to 6 and now goes to the president's desk for signature. Alexander is the senior Republican on the Senate education committee that produced the legislation.
"Last year the federal government spent more than $145 million in Tennessee through a maze of programs trying to help Tennesseans find jobs," Alexander said. "The legislation passed today simplifies that maze, gives governors and states more flexibility, and makes it easier for Tennessee's 13 local workforce investment boards to match Tennesseans who want a job with the skills employers are looking for."
He continued, "I recently met with dozens of business, education, and community leaders on the Northeast Tennessee Workforce Investment Board in Johnson City, and the number one request was for more flexibility. Tennessee's workforce investment boards should be able to spend more time deciding how to best meet their local economic needs than complying with mandates from Washington."
What the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act does:
It cuts waste and red tape, and simplifies the maze of programs by:
Eliminating 15 programs identified as ineffective or duplicative.
Eliminating 21 federal mandates on state and local workforce board composition.
Replacing multiple state plans for multiple federal programs that have to be submitted to the federal government with a streamlined single state plan that will reduce time spent on paperwork.
It supports state and local decision-making and flexibility by:
Reinstating the authority of governors to reserve up to 15 percent of formula funds for innovative state and local job training initiatives.
Giving local workforce boards the freedom to transfer up to 100 percent of funds between the two largest formula programs serving adults and dislocated workers.
Giving states and local workforce boards the ability to incentivize and reward performance.
Allowing individuals to choose the career and training services that best meet their needs.
Empowering governors to reorganize or consolidate local areas that are low-performing in order to better meet regional economic demands.
It significantly improves federal program accountability by:
Strengthening consistent measures of quality across all programs that are focused on real outcomes, such as job placement, retention, earnings, and employer satisfaction.
Authorizing a 5 percent reduction in funding for poor-performing programs and requiring poor-performing Job Corps operators to re-compete.
Requiring the U.S. Department of Labor to conduct independent evaluations of programs at least once every 4 years.
In May, Alexander joined a bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers in announcing a deal to improve the nation's workforce development system through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act after months of negotiations.
The bill represents an agreement between the SKILLS Act (H.R. 803), which passed the House of Representatives in March of 2013, and the Workforce Investment Act of 2013 (S. 1356), which passed through the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee by a vote of 18-3 in July of 2013.
The Workforce Investment Act was first enacted in 1998 and has not been updated since. It has been due for reauthorization since 2003.