WIOA bill clears U.S. Senate by strong majority, 95-3

Editor’s Note: Press Release reissued from U.S. Senator Baldwin’s Office

Washington D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin today joined her colleagues in support of the bipartisan Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which passed the U.S. Senate by a strong majority, 95-3. Baldwin pressed to include in the bill provisions to address long-term unemployment and the gender pay gap. Originally passed in the late 1990’s as the Workforce Investment Act, this important reauthorization has been overdue since 2003.

“This bill is an important investment in Wisconsin’s economic security; strengthening workforce readiness and our economy,” said Baldwin. “By modernizing workforce development programs, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act provides critical support and training programs that work for businesses, educators and workers. I’m proud to support this bipartisan effort to put Wisconsinites back to work and help grow our middle-class.”

WIOA contains significant improvements and updates to existing job training programs originally authorized under the Act in 1998.  It strengthens workforce readiness by:

  • Creating a streamlined workforce development system.
  • Aligning workforce development programs with economic development and education initiatives.
  • Enabling businesses to identify in-demand skills and connect workers with the opportunities to build those skills.
  • Maintaining the 15 percent funding reservation at the state level to allow states the flexibility to address specific needs.
  • Empowering local boards to tailor services to their region’s employment and workforce needs.
  • Supporting access to real-world education and workforce development opportunities.
  • Ensuring individuals with disabilities have the skills necessary to be successful in businesses that provide competitive, integrated employment.
  • Improving outreach to disconnected youth by focusing youth program services on out-of-school youth, high school dropout recovery efforts, and attainment of recognized postsecondary credentials.

 

Baldwin helped ensure the bill included a provision giving the long-term unemployed access to programs that help them obtain the employment, education, training and support services they need to find a job. Including this provision ensures that WIOA programs take into consideration the unique challenges of those who have been out of work the longest. Baldwin also worked to include a provision that requires the Secretary of Labor to conduct a study to develop strategies ensuring that WIOA programs are placing individuals in jobs, education, and training that lead to equivalent pay for men and women, including strategies to increase the participation of women in high-wage, high-demand occupations in which women are underrepresented.

Senator Baldwin has put a strong focus on Wisconsin’s manufacturing economy and making sure workers have the tools and skills they need to succeed. Baldwin has traveled across the state visiting a number of Wisconsin’s technical colleges to learn about how they are training students for high-skilled positions, growing their manufacturing programs, and partnering with local businesses and organizations to address local employment and skill-training needs.

Through funding for Wisconsin’s Workforce Investment Boards, WIOA has helped strengthen Wisconsin’s workforce readiness efforts to provide industry-driven worker training services for Wisconsin families and businesses. In Wisconsin, 11 Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs) provide services at 22 One Stop Job Centers around the state. In 2012, these job centers in Wisconsin reported nearly 560,000 job seeker visits. Reauthorizing WIOA is critical to ensuring these WIBs can continue making their critical contributions across Wisconsin and the country.

“Having a skilled workforce is vital to our country’s economic success. WIOA will allow us to build on our accomplishments of the last 16 years and create that pipeline of right-skilled workers and help our businesses compete in a global marketplace,” said Jim Golembeski, Executive Director of the Bay Area Workforce Development Board. “It’s all about talent!”

“Wisconsin’s Workforce Investment Boards help workers get the assistance and training they need to return to the workforce, while also connecting employers to skilled workers. The antiquated Workforce Investment Act of 1998 did not address changes in the modern economy and the current needs of businesses,” said Mary Kay-Nabonzny, CEO of Northwest Wisconsin Workforce Investment Board, Inc. “WIOA will prepare the 21st century workforce with the knowledge and skills necessary to be successful in the workplace while applying industry partnerships and other key workforce development strategies to help employers identify, train and retain skilled workers.

“We are thrilled to see the Senate embrace the new Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, legislation that will help modernize and streamline the workforce system to better prepare current and future workers to meet the demands of our regional businesses. WIOA also maintains the local governance structure and delivery system which is so critical to addressing the specific demands of local and regional economies. For South Central Wisconsin’s unique mix of urban and rural economies, this will help us maintain flexibility in our services to job seekers and also help strengthen our industry partnerships,” said Pat Schramm, Executive Director of the Workforce Development Board of South Central Wisconsin.

The following organizations have voiced support for the bipartisan, bicameral Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act: National Association of Manufacturers; U.S. Chamber of Commerce; National Governors Association; U.S. Conference of Mayors; AFL-CIO; American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees; American Federation of Teachers; the America Legion; Association for Career and Technical Education; Bipartisan Policy Center’s Governors Council; Business Leaders United; Business Roundtable; National Association of Counties; National Association of State Directors of Career and Technical Education Consortium; National Association of State Workforce Agencies; National Association of Workforce Boards; National Association of Workforce Development Professionals; National Conference of State Legislatures; National Council of La Raza; National Education Association; and National League of Cities, among others.