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President signs job training bill

Biden announces overhaul of workforce system

Cynthia E. Griffin | 7/24/2014, midnight
President Barack Obama Tuesday signed bipartisan, bicameral legislation to overhaul America’s job training programs while at the same time Vice ...

President Barack Obama Tuesday signed bipartisan, bicameral legislation to overhaul America’s job training programs while at the same time Vice President Joe Biden released a report that details how the administration is planning to revamp the federal training programs.

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) is expected to modernize and improve existing workforce development programs, help workers attain skills for 21st century jobs, provide support to people with disabilities and provide federal funds to nonprofit organizations around the nation that will help prepare Americans for employment.

The legislation also includes key provisions that will help increase employment among at-risk youth, particularly those who have dropped out of high school or have been caught up in the criminal justice system.

The bill is a complex piece of legislation that took more than 10 years to get passed and eliminates 15 existing programs; allows state and local governments to tailor programs to meet their distinctive needs; and puts more emphasis on programs that get Americans into the working world more quickly and directly.

The bill, which authorizes $9 billion in spending for fiscal year 2015, also makes changes to Job Corp, adult education and state vocational rehabilitation services particularly those programs that are targeted at individuals with disabilities.

But one of the key changes that the WIOA implements compared to previous job training efforts is that there is to be a shift from in-put (how people have walked into the door and be helped) to out-put (how many people got trained for jobs, retrained for higher-paying employment and what the improvements were.

The WIOA legislation was signed as Biden released a report requested by the president in January about reforming the federal job training system. The report said that fundamental changes require a shift to giving people more job-driven training to respond to the actual needs of employers.

Biden’s report also says that all federally-funded training programs should follow a check list that meets seven basic elements including—engages employers, measures and evaluate employment and earnings outcomes, promotes a seamless progression from one educational stepping stone to another, breaks down barriers to accessing job-driven training and hiring for anyone willing to work and making better use of data to drive accountability.

As part of the bill, local and national community-based organizations or intermediaries will be eligible to apply for pay-for-performance grants in partnership with workforce investment boards.

The funding can be used for education (general education development credential preparations, employment and job readiness activities such as mentioning, internships, on-the-job training, occupational skills training, placement in unsubsidized jobs and personal development).

Among those the legislation is expected to target are the 5.8 million 16-24 year olds who are neither employed or attending schools as well as address the 13 percent youth unemployment rate. (In May, the rate was 24 percent of African Americans and just over 12 percent for Hispanics).