Bill Filed to Reform Federal Job Training

U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., who chairs the House Education and the Workforce Higher Education and Workforce Training Subcommittee, will chair a Feb. 26 hearing about her bill.

A newly filed bill named the Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills Act is the vehicle Republicans on the U.S. House Education and the Workforce Committee appear ready to use to reform federal job training and employment assistance. It was filed Feb. 25 by U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., who chairs the committee's Higher Education and Workforce Training Subcommittee, and she will chair a Feb. 26 hearing about it.

"Today's workforce development system is failing workers, employers, and taxpayers," Foxx in a release posted on the committee's main website. "Instead of a dynamic network of employment support, we have a massive bureaucracy that stifles innovation and wastes resources. Last year, President Obama urged Congress to cut through the confusing maze of programs and create one program for individuals to access the assistance they need. The SKILLS Act is the only proposal that moves us toward this goal. It is time to be bold with how we prepare today’s workers to compete and succeed in this new economy."

Foxx and her Republican colleagues contend many of the more than 50 federal programs across nine agencies overlap. The original Workforce Investment Act of 1998 established a system of one-stop centers for individuals to access job training and employment services, but it has never been reauthorized, they point out. Committee Chairman John Kline, R-Minn., called Foxx's bill "a common-sense solution to help fix a broken job training system. We have tried the Washington-knows-best approach for decades, and it hasn't worked. In the process, we've squandered taxpayer dollars and failed to provide workers the help they need," he added.

The bill would eliminate some redundant programs and would create a Workforce Investment Fund to serve as a single source of support for employers, workers, and job seekers. It also would require state and local workforce investment leaders to outline how they’ll serve at-risk youths, individuals with disabilities, veterans, and other workers with unique challenges to employment, and it would require independent evaluations of programs at least once every five years.

Democrats on the committee already have introduced their own alternative, the Workforce Investment Act of 2013, which was introduced last week by Reps. John Tierney, D-Mass., Rubén Hinojosa, D-Texas, and George Miller, D-Calif. They say it would promote more effective coordination among local stakeholders, and they take issue with the Republicans' approach."“It is imperative we strengthen our workforce system so people of all ages and abilities can obtain the skills and training they need and so businesses can hire and grow. The bill we are introducing today does just that, and it will promote and expand the kind of innovative partnerships among colleges, businesses, and workforce boards that are occurring in my district and throughout the country. Some in Congress have unfortunately prioritized the arbitrary consolidation of workforce programs above all else. That's the wrong approach. Our bill will improve the effectiveness and increase the accountability of the workforce system, while still ensuring that those who need services can get it. I urge Chairman Kline and his colleagues to work with us and reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act in a bipartisan manner," Tierney said.

Hinojosa said the bill "creates a 21st century delivery system for adult education and workforce training that leads to career pathways, increased educational opportunities, civic participation and economic self-sufficiency for our nation's increasingly diverse workforce."

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