By Theresa Minton-Eversole
The U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce approved legislation March 6, 2013, to reform the nation’s workforce development system. The Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills Act (H.R. 803) was approved by a vote of 23 to 18.
“These long overdue job training reforms are vital to the strength of our workforce,” said committee Chairman Rep. John Kline, R-Minn. “Each day we delay reform, taxpayer dollars are wasted on failed programs, and workers are left stranded in unemployment.”
The bill, known as the SKILLS Act, was introduced Feb. 25 by the House Higher Education and Workforce Training Subcommittee to replace the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA), which has not been reauthorized since 2003. It would, among other things, eliminate and streamline ineffective and redundant employment and training programs and establish a workforce investment fund to serve as a single source of support for employers, workers and job seekers. The measure also would empower state governors to consolidate additional employment and training programs and services at the state level to improve administrative efficiency and further eliminate waste. State and local workforce-investment leaders would be required to outline strategies they would implement to serve at-risk youth, individuals with disabilities, veterans and other workers with unique employment challenges.
Many organizations representing the business community, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, applaud the reforms.
The Chamber issued the following statement: “The [SKILLS Act] would repeal many ineffective and duplicative federal training and employment programs. This consolidation, when combined with additional state and local flexibility for the delivery of these services, would allow more adults and dislocated workers to more efficiently receive the services they need to not only find a job but also stay employed. The Chamber applauds provisions of the SKILLS Act that address this problem through a reservation of funding for training based on an analysis of the job needs of the local area.”
“Improving [the workforce development system] … would help employers traverse [it] and enable American workers to receive the high-skilled training our country and employers so desperately need,” the National Association of Manufacturers said in a statement. “Manufacturers are pleased to see a significant effort to reform the [Workforce Investment Act] system by reducing the bureaucracy and allowing workforce training dollars to [be] focus[ed] on training.”
The bill also has been referred to the House committees on Veterans' Affairs and Energy and Commerce, among others.
House Democrats introduced a similar bill, the Workforce Investment Act of 2013 (H.R. 798), on Feb. 15, to update the federal job training legislation, which has been referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.
Theresa Minton-Eversole is an online editor/manager for SHRM.
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