During a White House ceremony on July 22 President Barack Obama signed into law the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), a bipartisan, bicameral agreement to improve the nation’s workforce development system and help close America’s skills gap.
WIOA, one of the few bills this Congress to pass the House and the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support, modernizes federal job training programs while giving states more flexibility to customize their training programs. Among many things, the bill improves outreach efforts toward disconnected youth and bolsters programs aimed at those with disabilities.
Provisions in the legislation eliminate outdated programs; provide accountability and data reporting requirements; require implementation of industry or sector partnerships and career pathway strategies; and increase the ability to use on-the-job training (reimbursement rates up to 75%) and incumbent worker training (may use up to 20% of local funds). WIOA also prioritizes the use of industry-recognized standards and credentials.
To add to this workforce effort, President Obama and Vice President Biden are also rolling out a string of federal-led efforts to further bolster the middle class. The executive actions are the product of a taskforce led by Vice President Joe Biden and charged with reforming the nation’s job training programs; commit millions of dollars toward making those programs more effective and more efficient.
The majority of these executive actions encourage employers and communities to train their own employees based on data highlighting their return on investment and to employ competitive grants—$2.4 billion over the next two years. Some of the actions to be funded include new apprenticeship grants and job-driven training programs. The actions also direct the US Department of Education to allow the awarding of college or technical school degrees based on demonstrated skills.
During his remarks, President Obama thanked the Congressional lawmakers in attendance for answering his call to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act and update it for the 21st century. “This is not a win for Democrats or Republicans; it’s a win for American workers. It’s a win for the middle class,” President Obama said. “The bill I’m signing today and the actions I’m taking today will connect more ready-to-work Americans with ready-to-be-filled jobs.” (Provided in part by MSNBC and Fort Mills Times)