Congress passed the WIA in 1998 as the largest single federal funding source for workforce development initiatives for the unemployed and underemployed. The goal was to create a system of one-stop career centers to provide training and employment services to a range of potential employees, including disadvantaged youth and dislocated workers.
Obviously, the demands of today’s workplace have changed over the past 15 years, and the WIA is in need of an update. To begin, there are currently 47 different federal workplace development programs administered across nine agencies, creating inefficiencies and overlap of services. Neither workers seeking employment services nor employers seeking skilled employees are adequately served under the current system.
The Workforce Investment Improvement Act (H.R. 4297), introduced by Reps. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Buck McKeon (R-CA) and Joe Heck (R-NV), maintains current WIA funding but improves efficiency and eliminates duplication by consolidating the 47 programs into one block grant program to states. H.R. 4297 also increases business representation on the Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs), which are responsible for allocating WIA funds.
Democrats on the committee, who have introduced their own WIA reauthorization bill, oppose H.R. 4297 on the grounds that it creates a “one size fits all” approach to workplace training. They argue that the 47 programs should be left intact and that more funding is necessary for new initiatives such as the president’s proposed Community College to Career Fund. They also oppose increasing business representation on the WIBs.
Building a Smartforce of workers equipped with the education and skills necessary to meet the demands of the 21st century workplace is a core principle of AMT’s Manufacturing Mandate. Considering that over half a million manufacturing jobs are going unfilled, it’s no wonder that Washington is finally paying attention to the problem.
H.R. 4297 represents a step forward and is making sure that federal funds are used to optimum benefit and that business stakeholders are properly represented at the table. Please urge your Member of Congress to support H.R. 4297. Visit AMTonline’s Legislative Action Center by clicking on the American flag on the homepage to find a sample letter, contact information and background to make communication easy.
For more information, contact Amber Thomas at athomas@AMTonline.org or Graham Schnaars at gschnaars@AMTonline.org.