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A jobs training bill supported by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and other employer groups was signed into law by President Barack Obama on July 22, 2014.
The new law is designed to help unemployed U.S. workers get the skills they need to find jobs by streamlining and untangling a complex web of federal workforce training programs, according to a congressional analysis. By reducing the size of workforce boards that administer federal job development initiatives and requiring these boards to work more closely with local businesses, the measure also will make the training programs more responsive to employer needs, supporters of the new law claimed.
The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (H.R. 803) is an update and reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), a federal jobs training law first enacted in 1998 during Bill Clinton’s presidency. Sources familiar with the issue said that the law would help improve information flow and employer access to federally funded job training and development programs.
“The bottom line is that the law will increase and enhance employers’ opportunities to participate in the federal programs that are funded and governed under the WIA,” said Jennifer Homer, vice president of communications for the Association for Talent Development. “The law will also give employers more access to information on workforce development initiatives in their communities.”
Congress had not reauthorized the WIA since 2003, and the law was in desperate need of a rewrite, according to Homer. Without a full reauthorization of the law, Congress kept the WIA job training programs alive by extending funding through budget deals and continuing spending resolutions. Administration of the programs had grown convoluted as a growing number of agencies added new training initiatives.
“There were some redundancies and overlap among the departments, and just figuring out what programs were available and who was eligible to participate had become very confusing,” said Homer.
It took Congress nearly five years to hammer out the final bill, which finally cleared both houses of Congress on July 9, 2014.
“It’s been a long time coming,” she said, “and employers should expect to see improvements as the law takes effect.”
According to the legislation, the law will become effective as the different training initiatives start new program years. The program years vary according to when the initiatives were enacted, so the new law will gradually take effect beginning at the end of 2014, continuing through 2015 and 2016.
In addition, the law reauthorizes regional employment centers, which help job seekers with resume writing, English as a second language courses and job-search techniques. The legislation also renews the U.S. Department of Education’s Gear Up grants to improve college access for disadvantaged youths.
The reauthorization of the employment centers aims to reduce red tape for job seekers and smooth the process of connecting them with training programs and businesses that are looking for workers with certain skill sets.
“This update of the law won’t be a game changer, but employers should notice changes with how federally funded training programs are being administered in their communities,” Homer said.
Bill Leonard is a senior writer for SHRM.
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