Wicker: Job Training Key to Getting Americans Back to Work

Congress Renews Effort to Build Skilled U.S. Workforce

June 30, 2014

With the long-overdue reauthorization of the “Workforce Investment Act,” the Senate has sent a strong message to American workers about the importance of staying competitive in today’s economy. The legislation, renamed the “Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act” (WIOA), supports more efficient job training and education programs to equip workers with the skills they need for employment.

Millions Still Discouraged by Obama Economy

WIOA is a rare example of bipartisan action in Congress to put Americans back to work. For too long Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has refused to allow a vote on dozens of job-creating bills passed by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

Meanwhile, the Obama Economy has left millions of Americans too discouraged to look for work or stuck in part-time jobs when they want full-time employment. Although the country’s overall jobless rate has dropped, the shrinking labor force is a cause for serious concern. The number of working-age Americans with a job is the smallest it has been in more than 30 years.

New Legislation Streamlines Job Assistance

WIOA accomplishes a number of critical priorities beneficial to American workers and taxpayers. First, it continues job development programs tailored to prepare a highly skilled workforce to meet the needs of U.S. businesses. Because of these programs, Americans are able to receive job assistance and career training from approximately 3,000 “one-stop” centers and 550 local workforce boards across the nation.

Second, WIOA seeks to ensure the most efficient use of taxpayer dollars by eliminating ineffective or duplicative programs. The Government Accountability Office has identified a number of federal job training programs that overlap. WIOA would eliminate 15 of these programs, making job assistance less cumbersome and confusing for Americans while also reducing government waste.

Third, the legislation provides more control and flexibility at the state and local levels. Communities, citizens, and local businesses should play a central role in determining the best ways to supply a specialized workforce for the jobs available in the area. Likewise, job seekers should be able to choose the specific career services that they need.

To do this, WIOA implements a number of constructive reforms, including getting rid of unnecessary administrative burdens and boosting efforts to encourage regional collaboration. Governors, for example, would have the power to consolidate low-performing areas and reserve a portion of funding for innovative job-training initiatives. Additionally, multiple state plans would be simplified into one plan, and accountability measures would be improved with regular, independent evaluations of programs.

Drawing High-Paying Jobs to Mississippi

Ensuring America has a skilled workforce is essential to facing the rapidly changing realities of the 21st-century economy, including the fact that about 70 percent of today’s jobs require at least a high school education. Capable and ready workers are a major factor when businesses look to invest and locate in Mississippi. WIOA can help build this workforce – and draw high-paying jobs to the state – by fostering training that responds to skills gaps in the labor market. Mississippi has repeatedly shown it is a great place to do business, and keeping this reputation means equipping local talent with the expertise to fulfill the jobs of today and tomorrow.