Workforce training to get an upgrade under bill heading for Obama’s signature

McClatchy Washington BureauJuly 11, 2014 

Speaker John Boehner signs the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (H.R. 803), July 11, 2014. From left to right: Leader Pelosi (D-CA), Rep. Miller (D-CA), Rep. Kline (R-MN), Rep. Foxx (R-NC), and Rep. Hinojosa (D-TX)

CALEB SMITH — Courtesy of the Speaker of the House’s website

— Republicans and Democrats in Congress say they got something done: A bill with overwhelming support in the House and Senate, which will streamline and improve workforce training, on Friday was on its way to the president's desk for his signature.

U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., the chairwoman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce’s Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training, was one of the authors of the legislation. It also includes parts of the AMERICA Works Act, which was introduced by Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C.

The bill ties federal workforce training money to local and regional employers, who will help customize training programs at high schools and community colleges. It also consolidates programs and provides more local flexibility in how they’re run.

Hagan’s legislation, now part of the bill, requires that operators of job-training centers prioritize training that will lead to nationally recognized credentials that employers in a region require for jobs. She said in a statement that this “helps bridge the skills gap and ensure our job training programs are as effective as possible.”

Hagan introduced the bill with Sens. Dean Heller, R-Nev, and Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., last year. Her office said it doesn’t add anything to the deficit. It’s modeled after a program at Forsyth Technical Community College in North Carolina.

The new law will consolidate workforce training programs and bring more accountability “so the money that’s being spent is going directly to services for people who need to develop skills for the jobs that are currently available,” Foxx said on Friday at a ceremony in the House of Representatives before the bill went on to the president. The House overwhelmingly passed it Thursday, and the Senate passed it with lots of support from both members of both parties in June.

“It shows we can get things done,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said at the ceremony.

Foxx also said that nothing gets done in Congress without collaboration, and she also acknowledged the hard work of committee staffers.

“This is a monumental achievement and I’m glad to have played a small part getting to where we are,” she said.

Hagan’s office said more than 300,000 North Carolinians remain out of work, but many employers in manufacturing report a shortage of qualified workers. Nationwide, there are about 4.6 million job openings, including 292,000 in manufacturing.

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