Workforce Investment Act Reauthorization Introduced in House

March 26, 2012
by Neil Bomberg

A bill that would modernize the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 was introduced in the House of Representatives recently by three members of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce: George Miller (D-Calif.), John Tierney (D-Mass.) and Ruben Hinojosa (D-Texas). 

The authors of the Workforce Investment Act of 2012 claim that the bill would make it possible for local workforce programs to respond to the growing demand for skilled workers in such high-growth fields as transportation, health care and advanced manufacturing - industries that are having difficulty recruiting workers because so many of today's unemployed lack the skills needed to succeed at these jobs. 

The bill recognizes that the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 is outdated and that it no longer provides for a job training system that can respond to recent and dramatic changes in the workplace. Furthermore, the bill meets many of NLC's priorities for reauthorizing the Workforce Investment Act. 

For example, the bill would modernize the nation's workforce investment system infrastructure by creating partnerships with in-demand sector employers, community colleges, labor organization and non-profits, so that local programs would be better able to train workers and help them acquire skills in growth industries. It would allow local regions to develop and implement diverse, equitable and accountable workforce programs by providing for a governance structure that is able to make use of the array of workforce, education and related services that are available. 

States, for the first time, would be required to develop and submit unified state workforce plans that better coordinate job training, adult education and post-secondary education operations. The bill would require local programs to implement career pathways strategies and expand the use of on-the-job and incumbent worker training, as well as transitional jobs and paid work experience, and allow individuals to immediately access training. It would also allow local programs to contract directly with community colleges for job training services.

From NLC's perspective, the most important change in the act is that it would increase and strengthen the involvement of the chief local elected official in program planning and implementation, and require governors, in many instances, to negotiate directly with elected officials on performance standards, program services and the like.

The bill would create common reporting and performance measures for a range of programs, including adult education, re-employment services and vocational rehabilitation, and would adjust the measures for areas that aid "hard-to-serve" individuals, something that the job training community has long sought. The bill would establish a competitive grant program to support the development and expansion of new and promising strategies, including career pathways, sector partnerships and regional approaches, all of which NLC supports. 

It would expand the role of community colleges in job training by expanding their capacity to train workers in high-growth industries like heath care, transportation and advanced manufacturing, which NLC would welcome. The bill would also revive the youth section and allow workforce areas to provide youth with multiple pathways to success, including summer employment, internships, pre-apprenticeship programs, on-the-job training and service activities.

The bill will be referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. At this time, no hearings are planned.