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Mr. GEORGE MILLER of California. I thank the gentleman for yielding.
Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of the bipartisan, bicameral Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.
I want to thank my colleagues, Representatives Tierney and Hinojosa, for their commitment to improving our workforce training system, a job that they have labored at now for many years. And I want to thank Senators Harkin, Murray, Alexander, and Isakson for their leadership.
I also want to strongly thank the chairman of the committee, Mr. Kline from Minnesota, and subcommittee chairwoman Virginia Foxx for their leadership and cooperation on this legislation and, of course, the professional staff on both sides of the aisle in the House and in the Senate.
This is a critical moment. With almost 20 million Americans still out of work, workers need help learning skills and finding good jobs. Each year, WIA and the vocational rehabilitation programs serve millions of Americans in need of job training and employment services. But with a rapidly changing workforce and a competitive global economy, we need to update and improve the workforce training programs.
For 40 years, these vital programs have been authorized and reauthorized through bipartisan collaboration, and I am happy to see that that tradition continues today. I am especially pleased that the bill maintains strong protections and funding for populations in need, while also streamlining programs and creating new accountability measures.
This bill improves job training programs and aligns the training with real-world labor market needs. It better aligns vocational rehabilitation programs with special education services to help youth with disabilities transition into college or the workforce. It empowers people with disabilities to succeed in competitive, integrated employment. And it emphasizes the needs of youth, dislocated workers, undereducated adults, and English learners.
But this bill also makes other critical changes. Similar to the Tierney-Hinojosa Democratic bill, this agreement makes job training programs more efficient and effective. It requires that States develop unified workforce plans to coordinate their job training programs. It standardizes accountability metrics across all programs. It cuts the size of State and local boards so they can be more flexible and strategic. And it includes new benchmarks to help training program participants earn certifications that will allow them to find employment.
The bill also includes innovative policy solutions. Most importantly to me, this bill better connects job training programs with the needs of local employers and gives local employers a larger voice, and it requires sector initiatives at both the State and local levels.
It gives workers access to training for long-term job readiness and not just immediate employment. It helps prevent students with disabilities from being funneled into subminimum wage employment, and it includes competency-based education, so that adults can get credit for what they have already learned.
Now, some will say the bill doesn't cut enough programs, and others will say that it didn't create enough new programs, but this is compromise legislation that aims for the middle ground. I think it has been accomplished, and I think the efficiencies have also been accomplished in this legislation.
Madam Speaker, I ask for an ``aye'' vote on H.R. 803, and I think it will support much, much-needed improvements to the primary Federal program that invests in America's workforce. Again, I thank my colleagues on the committee for all their attention and all their hard work.
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