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Sen. Donnelly’s Skills Gap Legislation Makes Progress

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Lakeshore Staff

July 21, 2014 — The bipartisan Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) that includes elements of bills introduced by Senator Joe Donnelly was signed into law today by President Obama. Donnelly attended the bill signing at the White House.

WIOA will improve our nation’s workforce development system and help put Hoosiers back to work. The legislation makes much-needed changes to modernize and improve our job training programs across the country and includes part of Donnelly’s AMERICA Works Act and many other priorities he has championed.

Donnelly said, “I am pleased that the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act has been signed into law because it will help prepare Hoosiers for the jobs that are available now and will enable businesses to find the skilled employees they need to succeed in today’s economy. We still have a lot of work to do to get people back to work and close the skills gap, which leaves hundreds of thousands of jobs unfilled. I look forward to the day when jobs are competing for the same workers instead of workers competing for the same job. With this bipartisan, commonsense bill, we are now one step closer to reaching that day.”

Donnelly introduced the bipartisan AMERICA Works Act in March 2013 with Senators Kay Hagan (D-NC) and Dean Heller (R-NV). The legislation would help close the skills gap by prioritizing training programs and certifications that employers need now. The newly-enacted WIOA includes a provision from AMERICA Works Act that modifies existing federal training programs to ensure one-stop job training centers like the WorkOne facilities in Indiana place a priority on programs and certifications that are recognized and in-demand by industry.

WIOA also echoes many of the priorities outlined by Donnelly in the Skills Gap Strategy Act, introduced with Senator Heller in October 2013, by taking steps to update and improve our country’s workforce development system, including: boosting employer participation; better aligning training programs with the jobs that are available now; and increasing the ability of workers to take advantage of on-the-job training, apprenticeships, and other opportunities.

As a result of WIOA, more workers will know that the time they spend training is more likely to lead to employment in good-paying jobs and more employers will know the people they hire will have the training needed to hit the ground running on day one.

The bipartisan WIOA modernizes existing programs and replaces the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, which was passed to support job training, career development, and job search assistance programs, including the nationwide system of one-stop job centers. The Workforce Investment Act had not been reauthorized since it expired in 2003, even though Congress continued to fund most of the programs it established.

WIOA will streamline the existing workforce development system and seek to make it more efficient by eliminating 15 ineffective or duplicative programs. In addition, it will require each state to create strategic plans and job training initiatives to ensure local markets have the workers they need.

In addition to WIOA being signed into law, Vice President Biden released a report today after he led a comprehensive review of federal job training programs. The findings of the report reflect a number of the proposals Donnelly has championed from the need to strengthen on-the-job training and apprenticeships to the importance of working with employers to determine their hiring needs now and prioritize the most effective training programs. Immediately after Obama’s announcement at the State of the Union that Biden would lead a review of job training programs, Donnelly spoke to Biden about his interest in the effort, and prior to that Donnelly emphasized to Obama during a meeting the importance of closing the skills gap to Indiana’s economy as well as Hoosier workers and employers.

According to the Department of Labor, there are approximately 4.6 million job openings in the U.S., and the national unemployment rate is 6.1 percent, meaning millions of Americans are still looking for work.

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