LABI: Encouragement in Workforce Innovation Act

Published 11:45 pm Friday, July 11, 2014

After more than a decade of debate, the reauthorization of major federal legislation designed to help job seekers find employment and skills training for the 21st century economy passed Wednesday, July 9, 2014. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) passed with overwhelming bipartisan congressional support and is on its way to President Obama’s desk for enactment.

WIOA is a $3 billion program that will fund state and local workforce initiatives and provide comprehensive job training services for adults and youth. The new law contains several reforms important to Louisiana and other states seeking workforce solutions.

“We know that in just six years, 53 percent of the jobs in our state will require a postsecondary credential. Right now, about 28 percent of adults in Louisiana hold an associate degree or higher – leaving Louisiana with a sizeable skills gap. A qualified workforce is critically important to LABI members seeking to fill available jobs in a variety of industry sectors. We are hopeful that reauthorization of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act will help prepare Louisiana’s young people and adults for current and future high-skilled jobs,” said LABI President Stephen Waguespack.

According to the US House of Representatives Education and Workforce Committee, the new program will modernize and improve existing federal workforce development programs, help workers attain skills for 21st century jobs, provide supports to people with disabilities to enter and remain in competitive, integrated job settings, and foster the modern workforce that evolving American businesses rely on to compete.

The bill was supported by a broad coalition of stakeholders including LABI’s partners at the US Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturing, Business Roundtable, and Associated Builders and Contractors.

“This is very exciting. It makes a number of improvements…One great thing about WIOA for us is that it returns to the 15 percent state allocation. In recent years, this had been reduced to 5 percent (a two-thirds cut to state-level funding),” said Louisiana Workforce Investment Council Director David Helveston.

Other promising WIOA provisions include:

• Reducing the number of required positions on Workforce Investment Boards, while maintaining the business majority and chair;

• Streamlining federal workforce programs by eliminating outdated programs and mandates;

• Establishing new accountability metrics, such as employer engagement, measurable skills gains toward a credential or job, and better criteria for assessing the performance of one-stop job centers;

• Creating new requirements for Workforce Investment Boards to implement industry partnerships;

• Aligning education and economic development goals to better achieve workforce training; and

• Providing more flexibility for states to customize workforce solutions.

LABI will monitor implementation of the new Act at the state and local levels to help ensure federal dollars are maximized for much-needed workforce solutions in Louisiana.