Today the Senate is poised to pass a bi-partisan, bi-cameral agreement to replace the Workforce Investment Act with an updated system that is more streamlined and focused on training the American Workforce for jobs that are in-demand in the private sector. The NAM has long advocated for improving the federal workforce development system and we applaud the Senate for taking this important step and urge passage of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Tom Harkin (D-IA), and Lamar Alexander (R-TN), along with their colleagues in the House of Representatives John Kline (R-MN), George Miller (D-CA), Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX), showed true leadership is pursuing this solution.
NAM members are in need of a highly skilled workforce, have identified the skills that are necessary for success in manufacturing, and endorsed the credentials that train to those skills. Recent surveys show over 80 percent of manufacturers report a moderate to severe shortage of qualified applicants, which reduces net earnings by up to 11 percent each year. This problem is so prevalent that the NAM has created its first board of directors-level task force aimed at reducing the skills gap. Industry-recognized credentials are a key component to the solution. They allow individuals to know they are being trained in skills that are valued by the private sector, allow businesses to know they are hiring someone with the skills necessary for advanced manufacturing, and also a streamline the workforce development system by focusing finite resources on the meaningful training. WIOA recognizes these benefits and places a significant priority on this type of training. Senators Kay Hagan (D-NC) and Dean Heller (R-NV), were the primary sponsors of legislation the NAM supported called America Works, which had at its core a goal included in the WIOA, emphasizing the benefits of credentials in federal workforce training programs.
The Senate and the House should be commended for working beyond the standard Washington, D.C. gridlock and coming up with a tangible solution to the lingering skills gap problem. Once the Senate has approved the legislation, it will be sent to the House for consideration. We are hopeful the agreement will remain in-tact and the House will act swiftly to send this important legislation to the President for his signature.