US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions

Overhaul of America’s Job Training Programs Headed to President’s Desk Following Strong Bipartisan Support from Congress

Current Federal Workforce Development Laws, Written in 1998, Have Been Overdue for Reauthorization for More Than Ten Years; Leaders from Senate and House Announced Bipartisan, Bicameral Agreement in May

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Legislation to update the Workforce Investment Act, overdue for reauthorization for more than a decade, is headed to the President’s desk following overwhelming bipartisan support from both houses of Congress. The Senate and House authors of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) applauded the passage of the bill, which seeks to update and improve the nation’s workforce development system. The legislation was approved today by a vote of 415 to 6 by the House of Representatives; it was approved by the Senate last month by a vote of 95-3 and will be signed into law by President Obama.

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act modernizes and improves existing federal workforce development programs, helps workers attain skills for 21st century jobs, 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. In addition to winning strong bipartisan support in both chambers, the bill is supported by a broad array of labor, business, workforce development leaders, and disability advocates, as well as governors and mayors from around the country.

“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.”

Chairman John Kline (R-MN): “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.”

“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 Johnny 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.”

“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.”

WIOA represents a compromise between the SKILLS Act (H.R. 803), which passed the House of Representatives in March of 2013 with bipartisan support, and the Workforce Investment Act of 2013 (S. 1356), which passed the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee with a bipartisan vote of 18-3 in July of 2013.  A one-page summary of the legislation can be found here. The statement of managers, including a section-by-section summary of the legislation, can be found here. A summary of key improvements WIOA makes to current workforce development programs can be found here. The text of the bipartisan, bicameral agreement can be found here. A full list of WIOA supporters can be found here.

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