Last week the House Education and the Workforce Committee considered a bill, H.R.4297, the “Workforce Investment Improvement Act of 2012,” that would dramatically reform the nation’s workforce investment system by consolidating over 20 federal employment and training programs into a single block grant to states and local areas. (The bill was last marked up on June 7.)
This bill strengthens the role that employers would play in the design and implementation of the nation’s workforce investment system and encourages the establishment of regionally based workforce areas around which to build comprehensive workforce development systems. Unfortunately, the reported bill was not bipartisan, with Committee Democrats offering their own substitute, as well as a series of amendments targeting services to special populations with barriers to employment, including several dedicated to funding and services for disconnected youth.
JFF sees many positive provisions in the Committee-reported bill, but does share serious concerns over the elimination of national programs like YouthBuild, as well as dedicated funding and program elements for state and local services to disconnected youth. We agree that the Workforce Investment Act is in need of updating, and that youth and adult programming should be improved to provide pathways to the education, training, and recognized credentials needed to attain good jobs and careers. We feel strongly that enactment of workforce legislation is critical, especially when millions of Americans remain unemployed at the same time as employers’ competitiveness is stunted by a significant skills gap in this country.
We compliment House Committee Members from both sides of the aisle for their dedication to these critical issues and to the development of two worthy yet different legislative measures designed to address our nation’s workforce challenges. We hope that they can find a way to work together in pursuit of a bipartisan workforce investment bill, taking the best parts of both measures, so enactment of critical workforce legislation can become a reality this year.
We look forward to continuing our work with Members of the House Education and Workforce Committee, as well as Members of the Senate HELP Committee, on the development of this important legislation.