By Neil Bomberg
On July 31, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee adopted S.1356, a bill to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) by a vote of 18 to 3. The strongly bipartisan bill was co-authored by Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Johnny Isakson (D-TN) and co-sponsored by Sens. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Lamar Alexander (D-TN), the chairman and ranking member of the Senate HELP Committee, respectively.
The bill would maintain programs at the state and local levels that help residents obtain job training and job placement assistance. It is strongly supported by NLC as well as many other organizations, including: IBM, AFL-CIO, Siemens, the National Association of Counties, the Leadership Conference for Civil Rights, the National Youth Employment Coalition, The Arc, the National Metro Business Alliance, and the National Coalition on Literacy.
In a letter to Sens. Harkin, Alexander, Murray, and Isakson, NLC’s president, Mayor Marie Lopez Rogers of Avondale, Arizona, wrote: “Jobs, after all are created locally, and students develop their knowledge and skills locally. Workers find and keep their jobs locally, and economic and community development occurs locally. Accordingly, NLC believes that workforce development must also happen locally, be governed locally, and be coordinated with these other programs and activities locally.”
NLC urged members of the HELP Committee to support and adopt this bill, which would modernize and strengthen existing WIA systems and programs, provide all types of workers the skills training they need to succeed, and ensure employers access to the skilled workers for which they have been clamoring. In addition, it would maintain a strong role for local elected officials and local business leaders in the development and implementation of workforce development programs.
Mayor Rogers added: “Advancing this legislation will help ensure that America’s workers have access to effective job training and placement services so that they have the skills and assistance they need to be meaningfully employed, and employers have access to the skilled workforce they need to compete in the global economy.”
In her remarks before the committee, Sen. Murray said, “It’s been more than a decade since we first passed the Workforce Investment Act, and though it’s already had an incredible impact on our economy, this legislation is well past due for improvements and reauthorization. In a time when it’s becoming more difficult to pass bipartisan legislation, I’ve been thrilled to work with Senators Isakson, Harkin, and Alexander on a strong, bipartisan bill that sets politics aside to make important investments in our economy.”
Sen. Harkin echoed Sen. Murray’s praise of the bipartisan nature of the bill by noting, “The reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act is long overdue, and this bipartisan bill will help workers, including young adults with disabilities, get access to the job placement, training services, and supports they need.”
NLC stands ready to work with Senate leaders to enact S.1356, as currently drafted, into law.