Long-sought Compromise Unites Parties to Improve U.S. Workforce Development System

Published may. 22, 2014

In an encouraging display of bipartisan unity, the U.S. Congress has reached a long-sought bipartisan agreement to overhaul the nation’s main law overseeing federal job-training programs, aiming to strengthen services and increase the ability for millions of underserved adults to find work and launch family-supporting careers.

The proposed reauthorization of the $3 billion Workforce Investment Act emphasizes approaches with demonstrated success helping out-of school youth, low-skilled adults, dislocated workers, English language learners, people with disabilities, and others who are unemployed or stuck in low-paying jobs.

If approved next month, the new law would expand:

  • Career pathways efforts, which could include models like Accelerating Opportunity, that provide accelerated education, training and support services for low-skilled individuals, so they can quickly attain the education and credentials they need for industry recognized credentials and high demand jobs, that provide learning through work experience and training
  • Programs with data showing that they increase success in earning postsecondary credentials leading to work in high-demand occupations
  • Standardized performance metrics to ensure quality while reducing state and local administrative burdens
  • State and local support for serving youth who are out of school and out of work
  • Expectations of postsecondary success and skills improvement across federal workforce programs, including those serving disconnected youth—such as Back on Track pathways through postsecondary education
  • State and regional strategic planning for implementing a more coordinated and comprehensive employment and job training system

The compromise would emphasize industry-recognized credential attainment, training that is focused on in-demand industry sectors and occupations, and as noted above, career pathways that lead to credential attainment and good jobs.

The proposal also would set authorized funding for job training programs at increasing amounts from 2015-2020, which would signal a change after several years of declining or stalled funding for federal workforce programs.

The original law was passed in 1998 and has been stuck in bipartisan disagreements for the past decade. The WIA was designed to bring together businesses and community colleges through local workforce boards.

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