Cheryl Oldham Cheryl Oldham
Senior Vice President, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation
Vice President, Education Policy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce


April 05, 2024


Next week, the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to consider A Stronger Workforce for America Act (H.R. 6655), bipartisan legislation developed by House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC-5) and Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA-3), to reauthorize and revamp the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, or "WIOA" (P.L. 113-128). 

Why it matters: WIOA is the main source of federal funding for states and local communities to provide job training opportunities to youth, dislocated workers, and adults. 

  • H.R. 6655 includes many positive reforms to a system that needs significant improvement, including increased accountability for results, a focus on promoting skill-based hiring and re-directing H1-B user fees to support individual training accounts for dislocated workers.

One of the most meaningful updates is the legislation's requirement that at least half of the dollars fund skills training and work-based learning opportunities.

  • This is good news: It means most of the money will go toward preparing the American workforce for in-demand jobs—exactly what the legislation is intended to do.

This provision addresses a long-held concern of the U.S. Chamber that funds under WIOA (and its predecessor, the "Workforce Investment Act") are used primarily for administrative functions and bureaucratic activities other than training. 

  • While some of these other expenditures are justified, such as supportive services for childcare that enable a participant to complete training, the main mission and function of WIOA must be to provide occupational skills development.

By the numbers: It is notable that data from the Department of Labor shows that just over 200,000 adults, dislocated workers, and youth received skills training in the most recent program year.

  • That amounts to a mere third of participants.
  • To meet the needs of individuals and employers, this number must increase, especially considering transformational workforce changes due to technology and artificial intelligence.

The United States has recently made significant investments to bring semiconductor manufacturing back to our shores and improve our physical and digital infrastructure to remain globally competitive.

  • However, for these investments to pay off, we must ensure America’s job training system is prepared to meet these goals.
  • More WOIA dollars must be directed to training, and local boards overseeing the program must leverage other appropriate federal, state, and local programs to meet the additional needs participants may have when engaged in training.

While some have argued against this requirement, claiming a need for more flexibility, requiring that at least half of the funds for the nation's premier job training program go toward training is sorely needed. And 50% may not even go far enough in tackling the country’s critical workforce challenges.

About the authors

Cheryl Oldham

Cheryl Oldham

Cheryl A. Oldham is vice president of education policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and is also senior vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

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