On behalf of the AFL-CIO, I write in support of the “Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (H.R. 803)” scheduled for floor consideration today. This legislation will improve our nation’s workforce development system and help countless Americans prepare for new jobs. The bicameral, bipartisan effort brings to a successful conclusion an 11-year effort to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) of 1998.
Providing greater access to training, education and employment services remains a top priority of the AFL-CIO and its affiliates. To improve the nation’s workforce development system we must focus on providing sufficient skill training to participants, rather than directing individuals into low-wage, low skill jobs that have little prospect of career advancement. H.R. 803 provides important new tools to take us in this direction.
The legislation strikes a delicate balance by maintaining the system’s core programs, while at the same time requiring them to meet a new set of common performance standards. Though the bill did not incorporate all the changes we recommended, important improvements were made in the Wagner-Peyser section of the bill, as well as in the Job Corps program. The bill also solidifies labor representation on the state and local workforce boards, and it includes a greater emphasis on career pathways, workplace-based career counseling, and sector partnerships.
We also urge you to oppose two amendments to H.R. 803 expected to be offered by Senators Flake and Lee. The Flake amendment would require sanctions to be applied if a local area fails to meet the local performance accountability measures relating to the youth, adult or dislocated worker formula programs in any year. The Lee amendment would require an independent evaluation of the program not later than June 30, 2018 and every four years thereafter. We find the Flake amendment time period to be too restrictive and prefer the three year time period included in H.R. 803. While we recognize independent evaluations can be helpful, state and local data gathering have proven to be a hindrance in accomplishing similar independent evaluations in the past. We therefore urge you to oppose both the Flake and Lee amendments.
The success of our nation’s employment and training system is a key factor in whether jobless workers can obtain gainful employment and high skill jobs. We urge you to vote for the “Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (H.R. 803)” and against the Flake and Lee amendments.
William Samuel, Director
Government Affairs Department