When the Workforce Investment Act was passed in 1998, Bill Clinton was the president, Newt Gingrich was the Speaker of the House and we were in the middle of the dot-com boom. Since then we’ve been through the dot-com bust, one mild recession after the events of 2001 and one severe recession, of which we are still seeing the effects. Our economy has grown from $11.5 trillion in 1998 to $15.8 trillion in 2013. A company named Google has gone from a startup few people heard of in 1998 to widespread use as a verb in everyday lexicon. All this is to say our economy and the jobs in it have changed dramatically since the original law was passed. The Workforce Investment Act has been badly in need of modernizing for over a decade and the House is poised to give its approval to legislation that will do just that this week.
The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), as passed by the Senate, builds on the work done by the House of Representatives last year to reform the program and bring it online with the 21st Century. It eliminates 15 existing programs, applies a consistent outcome metric for federal workforce programs, streamlines the bureaucracy of the programs and empowers local boards to tailor services to the needs of their local economy. Manufacturers fully support WIOA and key voted in favor of it when it was considered by the Senate. We were pleased to see it pass the Senate by an overwhelming vote of 95-3.
For the last four years, the NAM has been working to ensure that federal workforce training programs emphasize programs that result in a credential or certification that demonstrates they have acquired the skills identified by employers as necessary for success in their field. Those credentials and certifications should be industry-driven to maximize their value to both the employee and the employer. The NAM believes the WIOA achieves this goal by recognizing the importance of certifications and credentials throughout the legislation.
Workforce training in the 21st Century is a constantly evolving and iterative process. WIOA gives federal programs the ability to adapt to the needs and demands of employers and employees in the future. It’s long overdue, but the House and Senate are to be thanked and congratulated for their bipartisan work in reaching this agreement.