Congress passed the Workforce Investment Act in August of 1998 to reform federal job training programs and create a new, comprehensive workforce investment system. The Act implements a universal access system of “one stop” career centers, which are single neighborhood locations where job seekers can find the majority of information they need to find employment. The centers also provide access to useful training and employment services for a range of employers and workers, including low-income adults, low-income youth, and dislocated workers. These programs are administered primarily through the Department of Labor, but also through the Departments of Education and of Health and Human Services.
Why Is This Important to NAPE?
WIA is an important piece of legislation for multiple reasons, including that it actively helps the U.S. economy to grow. WIA aligns job training and education programs with the needs of businesses and job seekers and teaches individuals the skills necessary to obtain jobs. Most importantly, the Act helps individuals with “barriers to employment,” including entering and remaining in the workforce and becoming economically self-sufficient. Given these goals, WIA is particularly well suited to address the needs of low-income individuals, women, and underrepresented minorities, all of whom often have difficulties obtaining stable and well-paying employment. WIA helps women, underrepresented minorities, and low-income individuals enter nontraditional yet high-paying careers, such as engineering and technical fields, which benefits individuals, by teaching them applicable, modern-day skills, and the U.S. economy, by bolstering the country’s scientific and technological competitiveness.
October 11, 2013: NAPE signs onto letter urging Congress to bring WIA reauthorization to the floor in 2013.
September 18, 2013: National Skills Coalition released a side-by-side comparison of the current occupational training and adult education and family literacy provisions in current law to legislation in the House and Senate to reauthorize WIA.
July 31, 2013: The Senate Health, Education, Pension, and Labor Committee passed S. 1356, the WIA reauthorization bill, with a bipartisan vote of 18-3. The bill will now advance to the Senate floor for a vote by the whole chamber.
July 26, 2013: Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Tom Harkin (D-IA), and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) officially introduced bipartisan legislation to reauthorize WIA. The Workforce Investment Act of 2013, or S.1356, contains some positive elements for CTE, including prioritization of career pathways and programs that lead to industry-recognized credentials and high-demand jobs.
July 11, 2013: The Senate Appropriators Committee advanced a FY 2014 spending bill for labor, health, and education programs. The bill includes $2.7 billion (an increase of $86 million) for WIA Grants to States to provide job training skills and assistance to low-skilled adults, dislocated workers, and low-income youth with barriers to employment. Read more here.
Because WIA has been pending reauthorization since 2003, many people have argued that the law should be reauthorized as soon as possible and should account for changing economic demands. WIA in its original form strongly emphasized short-term training and repaid re-employment for job seekers, but with the changing global economy, many emerging industries now require longer-term training. Additionally, significant decreases in funding have made it even difficult for many of the laws’ provisions to be effectively implemented, making reauthorization an even more pressing concern.
If and when WIA is reauthorized, Congress must prioritize services for individual most in need of assistance, including low-income women with barriers to training and employment. It should focus on moving individuals into high-wage, high-skill jobs to help them achieve self-sufficiency. For more information on NAPE’s legislative recommendations, please visit NAPE’s Public Policy Agenda.
Resources and Publications
CLASP: WIA webpage
National Skills Coaltion: WIA webpage
National Association of Workforce Boards
National Association of Workforce Development Professionals
U.S. Department of Labor: WIA Information and Tools
Wider Opportunities for Women: Economic Security Institute
Comments on HELP Committee WIA Reauthorization (National Coalition on Women, Jobs and Job Training & the National Coalition for Women, Girls in Education, June 2013)
How to Make the Workforce Investment Act Work for Women (Center for American Progress, 2010)
Making WIA Work video (Machinist News Network, April 2010)
WIA Policy Recommendations (National Skills Coalition, February 2012)
WIA Reauthorization Recommendations (CLASP)
The Workforce Investment Act and Women’s Progress: Does WIA Funded Training Reinforce Sex Segregation in the Labor Market and the Gender Wage Gap? (Institute for Women’s Policy Research, December 2009)