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JFF Commends Bipartisan Action on “A Stronger Workforce for America Act,” Calls for Continued Improvements in the Legislation

The Education and Workforce Committee’s bipartisan development of “A Stronger Workforce for America Act” holds great potential for the country’s learners and workers, but increased funding for the nation’s workforce system is needed to fulfill its promise. The bill that was reported by the Committee today makes significant improvements in the nation’s workforce system, in particular:    

  • An increased emphasis on skills development and skills-based hiring; 
  • New, mandatory job training grants; 
  • Added flexibility in the delivery of services through the nation’s one-stop delivery system, including encouragement for virtual services and the use of affiliated sites; 
  • An increased emphasis on sector strategies; 
  • Improvements to the Eligible Training Provider List (ETPL) and the overall quality of training;  
  • Codification of the Reentry Employment Opportunities, the Workforce Data Quality Initiative, and Strengthening Community Colleges Grant programs; 
  • Strengthening of the workforce data ecosystem by promoting the use of real-time labor market information, facilitating access to wage records data, and promoting data transparency via the use of linked, open, and interoperable data formats. 

However, areas for improvement remain, particularly regarding funding needed to adequately resource and support these goals. The bill’s authorization levels simply do not provide adequate funding for the nation’s workforce development system, especially given the new and expanded activities encouraged in the bill itself. As a result, we are concerned about several possible outcomes: 

  • Without additional funding, a new requirement that 50% of WIOA funding be spent on training will result in cuts to critical career services, career navigation, worker supports, and business services, particularly if the current definition of training is retained; 
  • Without additional funding, the proposed expansion of incumbent worker training under WIOA could reduce services for individuals with barriers to employmentespecially adults with low incomes and long-term unemployment, who are not covered by the new mandatory job training grants; 
  • The bill includes language for serving individuals with barriers to employment, but does not adequately address equity gaps in participant outcomes; 
  • There is a lack of focus on job quality in the bill, which could be rectified in part through planning, employer services, and data reporting requirements. 

We applaud the House Education and the Workforce Committee’s collaborative, bipartisan approach in the development of H.R. 6655, “A Stronger Workforce for America Act,” and believe that it would make many significant improvements in the nation’s workforce system authorized under WIOA. As the bill moves through the legislative process, we look forward to sharing our concerns with policymakers, and advocating for responsible development of this critical legislation in support of economic advancement for all. 

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