July 31, 2013

Portman, Bennet Secure Job Training Provision in Workforce Investment Act

Provision Stems from Bipartisan CAREER Act, Pushes Pay-for-Performance Measures for Federal Job Training Programs

Washington, D.C. – The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee today passed the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) with a provision written by U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) to make federal job training programs more responsive to the needs of the 21st-century job market.

The measure stems from the Careers Through Responsive, Efficient and Effective Retraining (CAREER) Act that the senators introduced in April and would encourage the use of workforce development funds from WIA to implement pay-for-performance job-training programs. The HELP Committee, of which Bennet is a member, included the provision as an activity that may be funded through the bill’s Workforce Innovation Fund that provide grants to states, local areas and entities to support 21st century programs that help people find jobs and build skills for long-term careers.

“I’ve visited hundreds of businesses throughout Ohio over the past few years, and I have come away impressed with the quality of the research and products I see. But one thing I often hear from companies is that there is a skills gap; companies often can’t find the skilled employees they need,” said Portman. “The federal government has made significant investments in programs that are designed to train the unemployed and underemployed to fill open jobs, but unfortunately these workforce development programs are failing to equip participants with the skills they need to acquire jobs. By building off of the pay-for-performance principles that Sen. Bennet and I established in our CAREER Act, this bill brings us one step closer to ensuring that job training providers will only be rewarded if they produce results. This roots the federal government’s training programs in a basic economic principle that will bring strong accountability to the federal job training programs and a renewed urgency to deliver results.”

“Colorado has earned the reputation as a place where businesses want to locate, and many of them need a skilled workforce to grow and thrive in our recovering economy,” Bennet said. “If we are going to remain competitive in the 21st century, our workers need to be prepared with the skills that employers need. Colorado has been on the cutting edge of using innovative, new approaches like virtual online job-fairs and rapid response programs for employees facing imminent layoffs to maximize WIA resources and help people get back to work. The pay-for-performance model we included in the CAREER Act will build upon this by encouraging states to direct resources towards job-training programs that are delivering results and getting people back to work.”

Portman and Bennet introduced the CAREER Act earlier this year, renewing a push to enhance accountability, improve data on WIA programs, and ensure that workers are being trained to fill jobs in industries with needs and jobs that have openings.

Federal job training programs can be a valuable tool to help job seekers acquire skills to re-enter the job market. By working in coordination with local workforce boards and workforce development councils that administer these services, the CAREER Act will help these programs better serve employers and workers alike. It will make federal job training more responsive to the needs of employers, more efficient with taxpayer dollars, and more effective in connecting the unemployed with good-paying jobs.

The CAREER Act has the support of the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Skills Coalition, the HR Policy Association, Corporate Voices for Working Families, the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association, the Ohio Association of Community Colleges, and the Ohio Association for Career and Technical Education, the Colorado Workforce Development Council, and the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, among others.

WIA was first passed by Congress in 1998 and has been overdue for reauthorizations since 2003. It is designed to provide assistance for finding employment, career development, and job training. This reauthorization bill presents an opportunity for Congress to modernize the original WIA legislation to better reflect the real-time needs of businesses, workers, and educators in an ever-changing economy.