U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., today applauded the U.S. House of Representatives passage of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, also known as WIOA, to update and improve the nation's workforce development system. The measure, introduced by Isakson and a group of bipartisan, bicameral lawmakers earlier this year, is now headed to the president's desk following overwhelming bipartisan support from both houses of Congress.
"Workforce training is critically important to help grow the American economy still recovering from recession and bridge the widening skills gap separating thousands of unemployed workers from promising careers in 21st century workplaces," said Senator Isakson. "The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act will provide millions of Americans the opportunity to receive the training and skills necessary to find a job and keep a job. I am extremely pleased that my colleagues in the House passed this bipartisan measure with overwhelming support. I urge the president to swiftly sign this bill into law so we can continue making critical investments in American workers to meet the modern demands of businesses in a global environment."
The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act modernizes, streamlines and improves existing federal workforce development programs, provides increased flexibility for states and local workforce boards by reducing burdensome federal mandates and strengthens accountability for taxpayer dollars. The bill helps to ensure that workers attain the skills necessary to meet the needs of employers for 21st century jobs and that employers have access to a workforce that is competitive in the 21st century.
The update to the law also provides supports to people with disabilities to enter and remain in competitive, integrated job settings, and fosters the modern workforce that evolving American businesses rely on to compete.
Isakson, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, led the effort to update and pass WIOA in coordination with HELP Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, HELP Committee Ranking Member Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and HELP Committee senior member Senator Patty Murray, D-Wash.
"The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act modernizes our workforce development system to ensure that all our workers can prepare for and fill 21st century jobs, including individuals with disabilities. It also makes groundbreaking changes that will raise prospects and expectations for Americans with disabilities so that they receive the skills and training necessary to succeed in competitive, integrated employment," said Senator Tom Harkin, Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee. "Access to education, training, and employment services is critical to helping our workers secure good jobs, gain access to the middle class, and become economically self-sufficient, and this bill is part of the solution to the challenges facing our middle class. This bill represents the best of what Congress can accomplish when we work together and I urge President Obama to sign it into law as soon as possible."
"Today is a good day for the American people. We've shown what's possible when we work together toward a common goal and right now there is no greater goal than putting Americans back to work," said Representative John Kline, Chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee. "This bipartisan, bicameral agreement will fix a broken job training system, help workers fill in-demand jobs, and protect taxpayers. I am proud to have helped lead this effort and want to thank my Republican and Democrat colleagues in the House and Senate for their hard work. Let's build off today's achievement and continue working together on behalf of the American people."
"Last year the federal government spent more than $145 million in Tennessee through a maze of programs trying to help Tennesseans find jobs, and this legislation simplifies that maze. This bill will help our nation's workers gain the skills to find jobs and give governors and local workforce boards the freedom and flexibility to make job training meet their local needs," said Senator Lamar Alexander, Ranking Member of the Senate HELP Committee.
"The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act will update and improve our workforce training programs by aligning them with real-world labor market needs. This legislation will better connect job training programs with the needs of local employers, helping workers to learn the most in-demand skills and to be prepared for the jobs of tomorrow," said Representative George Miller, senior Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee. "I want to commend all my colleagues, and particularly Reps. Tierney and Hinojosa, for their commitment to and leadership on strengthening our nation's workforce development system. For forty years, we have reauthorized these programs through bipartisan collaboration, and I am happy to see that tradition continue."
"After receiving overwhelming, bipartisan support in the Senate, today's vote in the House goes to show that both chambers of Congress are still capable of breaking through the gridlock and investing in American workers and the economy," said Senator Patty Murray. "I've seen firsthand that federal workforce programs can change lives, boost our economy, and get people back to work, but we can't expect to adequately train Americans for jobs at Boeing or Microsoft with programs designed in the 1990s. Today, we can definitively say that both chambers of Congress agree, and I'm thrilled that this long overdue legislation is now headed for the President's desk to become law."
"Today's vote is the culmination of a long process of legislating the old fashioned way: discussion, negotiation and compromise. There is longstanding, bipartisan agreement that the current workforce development system is broken, and this bill turns that consensus into action," said Representative Virginia Foxx. "The bipartisan, bicameral process through which The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act was developed serves as an example of what we can accomplish when we work together. This legislation is important for the millions of Americans who are looking for work and for the employers who have 4.6 million job opportunities that remain unfilled due to the skills gap. Closing this gap will specifically improve the lives of many American job seekers, while generally helping our economy grow. I urge the President to sign this legislation without delay."
"I am pleased to see the bipartisan support as well as the overwhelming support from business groups, labor unions, state and local elected officials, community colleges, workforce boards, adult education providers, youth organizations, and civil rights groups for this bill," said Representative Rubén Hinojosa. "In my district in South Texas we have seen how these programs are successful in training our workforce and getting our residents back into good paying jobs. Importantly, this bill includes several key provisions from the Adult Education and Economic Growth Act, which I introduced. In the area of adult education, this bill integrates adult education and workplace skills, authorizes the integrated English Literacy and Civics education program for Adult learners, and expands access to postsecondary education."
The proposal, which was introduced by the bipartisan group of leaders from the House and Senate in May, would improve federal workforce development laws that have been overdue for reauthorization for over a decade. Dozens of labor, business, disability advocacy, and workforce development leaders have endorsed the legislation and urged Congress to pass it promptly. See the current list of supporters here.
The legislation represents a compromise 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), passed by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee with a bipartisan vote of 18-3 in July of 2013.