By Neil Bomberg
National League of Cities (NLC) president Marie Lopez Rogers and the presidents of several of NLC's sister organizations sent a letter to Senate leaders last week urging them to move forward with reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) as quickly as possible, and to subscribe to several principles when doing so.
Writing on behalf of the nation's mayors and city council members, workforce investment board chairs, and directors of regional councils and development organizations, President Rogers and the others wrote, "We firmly believe that WIA is long overdue for reauthorization. We need a strong and modernized workforce system, and we strongly support efforts to increase investments in quality services, resources and training."
Calling on the Senate to act in a bipartisan way, the group called on the Senate to "forge legislation that is responsive to the needs of businesses and workers, reflects the perspectives of the varied constituency groups that workforce programs serve, and draws upon the strengths of each level of government to ensure that the program is effective, efficient and successful. "
The authors urged the Senate to:
1. Streamline the state and local governance process to ensure that job training and employment services are delivered rapidly and effectively, and meet the needs of employers and workers by ensuring that workers are trained to meet the 21st century workplace.
2. Retain the local delivery system that is based on regional economies and local labor markets, and is led by county and city elected officials and local business leaders who are most familiar with their local economies and the ways in which they can be supported and improved.
3. Thoughtfully and carefully consolidate existing workforce programs that are administered by different federal agencies so that program services are more effectively and efficiently delivered to those in need of job skills training and job placement assistance.
4. Establish common performance measures to accurately reflect local and regional service strategies, economies, and business-led metrics that are used across all WIA programs.
5. Include a significant reinvestment in youth, dedicated to young people with low educational attainment and poor connections to work- to establish a youth recovery and reengagement system that creates multiple pathways and greatly expands work experience -- including support for secondary school completion strategies, well-organized summer jobs programs, alternative education, occupational training, supportive services, adult mentoring for young workers, and comprehensive guidance and counseling to address the current youth employment crisis.
6. Allow training flexibility to provide for customization of training needs. A successful 21st century workforce system must be nimble enough not to impede the connection of eager jobseekers with employers who need to hire them.
Senate leaders have indicated that they hope to have a bipartisan bill released as early as June 25, and would hope to pass the bill out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee shortly after the July 4th recess.
The letter was signed by the presidents of NLC, the National Association of Counties, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Association of Regional Councils, and the National Association of Development Organizations, and the chair of the National Association of Workforce Investment Boards. To read the complete letter, please click here.