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Statement on Reauthorizing the Workforce Investment Act (WIA)
Recommendations to Improve the Federal Job Training System
The purpose of a national employment and training system is to help increase opportunities for individuals to prepare for and find employment and to provide investment in an educated, skilled, and adaptable workforce able to meet the needs of employers.
At the core of this system is the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), which entails the major sources of federal funding for adult, dislocated workers, and youth job training programs. While decades of reform have attempted to streamline WIA with numerous other federal employment and training programs (examples include: the Employment Services program, the Food Stamps Employment program, TANF funded programs, Trade Adjustment Assistance, Veterans programs, and the Targeted Jobs Tax Credits), there continues to be significant overlap and confusion which hampers the ability for participants to receive the services they need and deters employers from wanting to participate in meaningful ways. In addition, despite rigorous reporting requirements in many of these federal programs, they are rarely noted as being effective by policymakers, participants, or the business community.
As Congress reviews the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, there is an opportunity to fundamentally rethink and reshape our nation's federal job training and employment system. It is not enough to recast current WIA programs, but instead, there needs to be a broader framework in which all federal investment in training and employment must be coordinated and guided by the following principles:
- Non-Duplicative and Flexible—Services must be targeted to the right individuals as well as effectively managed and coordinated from multiple sources.
- Employer-Driven—Training must be relevant for jobs that exist today and for jobs anticipated for the future based on up-to-date and timely labor market information. The system must also constitute training of "real" skills.
- Innovative and Market-Oriented—Training services provided should be forward-looking and offered in a fully competitive environment allowing individuals to have maximum choice among eligible training providers. In addition, efforts should be made to support innovative initiatives to expand the availability of training.
- Accountable and Data-Driven—The system should be accountable to participants, the business community, and local agencies for outcomes, not process. There also needs to be better data to enhance decision-making.
- Customer Focused—The system should provide greater transparency to ensure a better customer experience. Job seekers must have the ability to navigate the system and identify eligible training providers that are achieving high job placement rates because they are meeting current employer needs.
Testimony on "New Innovations and Best Practices Under the Workforce Investment Act"
U.S. Chamber testimony before the House Subcommittee on Higher Education, Lifelong Learning, and Competitiveness.
February 12, 2009