JFF Calls on Congress to Increase Investment in and Modernize our Nation’s Workforce Development System
Yesterday the House passed a bill that reauthorizes the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)—the statute that funds and sets policy for our nation’s workforce development system. Jobs for the Future (JFF) supports many elements of the bill, in particular its focus on equity, system modernization, job quality, and increased funding for critical workforce development efforts.
While we are disappointed that the bill passed with only Democrats’ support, we look forward to working with members from both sides of the aisle to continue discussing, iterating, and moving WIOA legislation forward, with the intent to further expand and improve services to American workers, businesses, and communities.
The bill, H.R. 7309, supports steps to modernize the WIOA system by providing resources, setting expectations, and building capacity for the use of cutting-edge digital technologies and tools to expand and improve career navigation and skills development services. Local areas are encouraged to offer an augmented array of virtual and in-person service delivery strategies that meet the varied needs of individuals in their community. The bill also encourages new ways of operating, such as promoting skills-based hiring, strong employer partnerships, and community college and workforce-connected grant opportunities.
JFF supports [the bill’s] focus on equity, system modernization, job quality, and increased funding for critical workforce development efforts.
The legislation prioritizes workers and jobseekers, with an increased emphasis on support services designed to ensure that people can rebound and advance through tough employment transitions. These critical provisions include:
- Encouraging service providers to use evidence-based strategies such as career pathways and sector strategies
- Promoting professional development for workforce development staff members to ensure more effective delivery of services
- Efforts to gather better performance data, disaggregated by race, gender, and socioeconomic status, so workforce leaders can better understand the effectiveness of their programs
- Improved programming and additional support services for people with criminal records and other populations with barriers to employment
Finally, we welcome the bill’s significant increases in funding for WIOA programming—an investment of utmost importance. For far too long, the United States has underfunded workforce development, to the detriment of our jobseekers and workers.
While new and upcoming federal infrastructure and competitiveness measures are expected to create hundreds of thousands of new in-demand jobs, our country has not made the necessary workforce development investments to prepare individuals for these opportunities. This bill would authorize $74 billion over six years for workforce development programs, a level of funding that would provide significant increases in the availability of critical skills development, career navigation, and support services.
Congress must do more to truly transform and modernize the nation’s workforce development system.
While JFF is pleased with the progress the House bill represents, we know that Congress must do more to truly transform and modernize the nation’s workforce development system. As this bill moves to the Senate and policymakers continue to discuss and negotiate WIOA legislation, we hope to see bipartisan movement toward reform and solutions that further push our system to improve. These include a greater emphasis on skills development and on modernization of the broader workforce ecosystem, making workforce systems more agile and responsive to the changing needs of regional economies, employers, and workers.