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Harkin, Alexander, Murray, Isakson Praise Senate Passage of Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, Urge Swift House Approval to Send Long-Overdue Update to President’s Desk

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Senate coauthors of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) today hailed the Senate passage of the bill, which seeks to update and improve the nation’s workforce development system, and together urged the U.S. House of Representatives to take up the bill and pass it swiftly.

The bill—which was approved by a vote of 95 to 3—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.  Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, HELP Committee Ranking Member Lamar Alexander, and HELP Committee senior members Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) led the effort to update and pass WIOA.

“The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act will provide access to the training, education, and employment services that all of America’s workers, including those with disabilities, need to prepare for and fill 21st-century jobs,” said Senator Harkin. “Now that it has been approved by the Senate by an overwhelming majority, I urge the House of Representatives to take up and pass this bill swiftly so that the President can sign it into law. Giving workers the skills they need and employers the workforce they require are at the heart of this legislation, and I applaud my colleagues on the HELP Committee and on the Education and the Workforce Committee for their perseverance and commitment to updating this critical law.”

"Last year the federal government spent more than $145 million in Tennessee through a maze of programs trying to help Tennesseans find jobs,” said Senator Alexander. “This legislation simplifies that maze, gives governors and states more flexibility, and makes it easier for Tennessee's 13 local workforce investment boards to match Tennesseans who want a job with the skills employers are looking for.”

“Today’s overwhelming, bipartisan vote is proof that Congress is still capable of working across party lines to break through the gridlock and invest in American workers and the economy,” said Senator 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.  With the global economy changing faster than ever, we need to make sure that when new, 21st Century jobs are created, we have Americans ready to fill them. I’m thrilled Republicans and Democrats in the Senate stood together today, and I fully expect the House to do the same and send this bill to the President’s desk.”

“Workforce training is critically important to help grow the American economy still recovering from recession and to bridge the widening skills gap separating thousands of unemployed workers from good-paying jobs,” said Senator Isakson. “I am extremely pleased that my colleges in the Senate have passed with overwhelming bipartisan support the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act to provide an opportunity for millions of Americans to receive the training and the skills necessary to find a job and keep a job. I urge the House to join us in support of this bill so we can continue making critical investments in American workers to meet the modern demands of businesses in a global environment.”

The proposal, which was introduced by a 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), 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.