From the office of U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski:
U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), a senior member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, today announced Senate passage of a bipartisan reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), legislation to modernize and improve existing federal workforce development programs and help workers attain skills for 21st century jobs. Senator Mikulski cosponsored the legislation, which passed the Senate by a bipartisan vote of 95 to 3.
“As our nation continues to look at how to best create, sustain, and support high-paying jobs, we must look at how best to educate our workforce and how best to provide needed resources to fill jobs in high-demand,” Senator Mikulski said. “Today’s action by the Senate to pass this bipartisan bill is a major step toward improving WIA and helping our nation remain competitive globally. This is a down-payment on our middle class and our nation’s future, promoting jobs today and jobs tomorrow.”
WIA was first passed by Congress in 1998 and has been overdue for reauthorization since 2003. The Workforce and Innovation Opportunity Act passed by the Senate today contains crucial adjustments to the original WIA legislation that reflect the ever-changing global economy, input from business, education, and labor groups, and more than a decade of experience.
Of the more than 50 million new American jobs projected to be created by 2018, 30 million will require postsecondary education. Currently the American workforce is projected to fall short of that number by more than three million workers, creating a significant skills gap and a competitive disadvantage in the global marketplace.
To help grow the American economy still recovering from recession and address the widening skills gap separating thousands of unemployed workers from good-paying jobs, the WIA re-authorization bill contains significant improvements to existing job training programs and local workforce systems originally authorized under WIA in 1998. It also responds to a 2011 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on WIA programs by consolidating administrative burdens through use of a unified plan in each state, common performance measures, and a move to regional service delivery.
Specifically, the legislation would:
– Include a strong emphasis on effective use of real-world data, performance indicators, and stringent assessments and evaluations to determine the impact of workforce investments.
– Empower state and local workforce agencies to tailor their programs to specific needs.
– Emphasize real-world education training opportunities, including: on-the-job training, incumbent worker training, customized training, transitional jobs, and sector strategies.
– Maintain business majorities while shrinking state and local boards.
– Closely align workforce systems with regional economic development and labor markets.
– Apply one set of common performance metrics to each workforce program supported by WIA.
Senator Mikulski’s full remarks, as prepared, follow:
“I am proud to rise today in support of the Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act. I want to thank Chairman Harkin, Ranking Member Alexander, Senator Murray and Senator Isakson for putting together a strong reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act. I am happy that we were able to come together in a bipartisan, bicameral way to reauthorize this bill.
“As our nation continues to look at how to best create, sustain, and support high-paying jobs, we must look at how best to educate our workforce and how best to provide needed resources to fill jobs in high-demand. WIA does just that: it helps people learn new skills and increases their chances of succeeding. This bill before us today is a major step toward improving WIA and helping our nation remain competitive globally.
“This bill allows local workforce boards to tailor services based on regional employment and workforce needs. This means that workers will get access to education and training for the skills needed to fill jobs, including professional development. It helps ensure that federal workforce and training programs are working together by bringing together multiple programs and providers into a unified state plan to break down barriers and improve efficiency and effectiveness. This bill also ensures that all WIA programs are held to one set of common performance measures. This will help integrate case management and reporting systems while strengthening evaluations. Finally, this bill ensures that youth with disabilities will be provided the services and support they need to be successful in competitive, integrated employment.
“I am particularly proud that this bill takes an in-depth look at non-traditional occupations. These are jobs where a gender makes up less than 25 percent of the workforce for that occupation. Women currently represent half of our nation’s workforce but two-thirds of women are concentrated in 21 of 500 occupational jobs. Except for nursing and teaching, most of these jobs are among the lowest paid, including work in retail, service, and clerical jobs. Less than 16 percent of women who go through federally funded workforce programs receive any training. Most only get a ‘needs’ assessment and receive help in finding a job.
“The economic recovery is leaving women behind. Of the 1.3 million jobs gained in the United States, nearly 90 percent went to men. Men have since regained 19 percent of jobs lost while women have only regained six percent. The incomes of women in the workforce are too often not adequate for a decent standard of living to support a family. This bill would require ‘One-Stop Career Centers’ to provide info to individuals, including women, on opportunities in fields that are non-traditional. It requires reporting related to job-placement services for participants, including the number and percentage of participants who enter a non-traditional occupation. It also requires all programs to make an effort to develop programs that increase employment opportunities for those that are interested in non-traditional work.
“The Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act supports our workforce in providing education and training for millions of America’s workers. It ensures that local workforce boards have the flexibility needed to meet their regional needs. It encourages better coordination between federal workforce and training programs, and state and local efforts to attain economic development. It requires all programs to be accountable and it provides more opportunities for youth with disabilities. This bill is a down-payment on our middle class and our nation’s future. It is my hope this bill be passed in a swift, expeditious, and uncluttered way and continue to work with Members on both sides of the aisle and across the dome to improve our workforce system.”