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Senate Agrees to Consider Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

Bipartisan group of Senate coauthors urge passage next week of the bill to improve the nation’s workforce development system

WASHINGTON D.C.—Senate coauthors of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) today announced the Senate has reached agreement to consider the bill to improve the nation’s workforce development system and said it could be voted on as early as next week.

The bill, which was introduced by a bipartisan group of leaders from the House and Senate, would improve federal workforce development laws that have been overdue for reauthorization for over a decade.

Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, said: “The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act will help ensure that all workers, including those with disabilities, can access 21st-century job opportunities. It is a long-overdue update to our nation’s workforce development laws, and I am pleased that the Senate has agreed on a path forward for this bipartisan, bicameral bill. Along with my colleagues Sen. Alexander, Sen. Murray, and Sen. Isakson, I am hopeful that this critical legislation will come before the full Senate promptly, and I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support its passage and help put Americans back to work.”

Senator Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), ranking member of the HELP Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety, said: “Workforce investment and 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. I thank my colleagues for their bipartisan efforts on this legislation, and I urge the Senate to act swiftly to get this measure passed so we can get Americans back to work and meet the modern demands of businesses employees in a global environment.”

Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.), a senior member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, said:“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, so I’m thrilled that we’ve been able to move this bipartisan agreement to the floor and one step closer to passage.”

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, said: “Americans looking for work, employers looking for qualified workers, and governors trying to attract businesses and jobs should be encouraged that the Senate is ready to take up this legislation to simplify the maze of job training programs. Last year the federal government spent $145 million in Tennessee trying to help Tennesseans find work, and this bill will improve those programs and help our state’s 13 local workforce investment boards to match job seekers with the skills employers are looking for. I urge my colleagues to pass this bill.”

The legislation 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 through 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.