WASHINGTON, D.C. | October 4, 2011
Good morning and welcome to our witnesses. Some of you have traveled a great distance to participate in today’s hearing, and we appreciate the opportunity to hear your thoughts about ways we can improve assistance for our nation’s workers.
This is the committee’s fourth opportunity to examine the challenges and successes of the federal job training system. For several months, we have been working to determine what a twenty-first century workforce investment system should look like and identify the responsible reforms necessary to help us get there. As a result, we have gained a greater understanding of the changes that must be undertaken to build a stronger, more competitive workforce.
One of the most important things we have learned through these hearings is that the status quo is no longer acceptable. Particularly in times of record debt and persistently high unemployment, we need a job training system that is efficient and effective. Wasting state and federal resources is a disservice to taxpayers and workers. Earlier this year, the Government Accountability Office identified 47 separate job training programs administered across 9 federal agencies at a cost of $18 billion. Forty-four of these programs overlap, serving similar populations. Barely a handful have been reviewed for effectiveness. Clearly, there is a great opportunity to make the job training system leaner and more responsive.
Fortunately, we have also learned there are a number of creative and successful reforms underway at the state and local levels that may serve as models for reform. An improved job training system must empower state leaders to pursue policies that best meet the needs of the local workforce. After all, officials in Clemmons, North Carolina and Edinburg, Texas have a greater understanding of the needs of their communities than do a room full of Washington bureaucrats.
Finally, we have learned that, while there are differing views on how we move forward, there is agreement on both sides of the aisle that job training programs play an important role in the success of our workforce. In his latest stimulus plan, the president noted the importance of job training. However, his proposal to dedicate $9 billion in new spending to create two additional job training programs is questionable, particularly when one considers the dozens of existing programs identified by the GAO. I am concerned the president’s proposal will layer more bureaucracy, more rules, and more spending onto a job training system that is already overwhelmed by burdensome regulations and wasted resources. With 14 million Americans unemployed, we simply cannot afford to double-down on the failed policies of the past.
Instead, we should focus our efforts on modernizing the Workforce Investment Act so it reflects the realities of today’s economy, the needs of job-seekers, and the demands of employers. Ideas have already been laid on the table. Representative McKeon, former chairman of the full committee and champion of job training assistance, has introduced his own proposal to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act. I am grateful for his leadership and look forward to working with him in the weeks and months ahead. I hope the president will soon send up his own plan to modernize an outdated job training system.
Ultimately, American workers are looking for responsible policies that will help the economy grow and create new jobs. My Republican colleagues and I are eager to find common ground on solutions that will improve federal job training assistance on behalf of workers, employers, and taxpayers. Additionally, we are advancing our Plan for America’s Job Creators and pursuing a fall agenda that targets some of the most harmful regulatory roadblocks to job creation.
Improving the nation’s workforce investment system is an important part of Washington’s efforts to help put people back to work. I wish to thank our witnesses for contributing their views and experiences today, and helping us ensure the final product reflects the positive state and local solutions already underway.
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NOTE: An earlier version of the opening statement inaccurately stated the two programs proposed by the president cost $4 billion. The current version has been updated to reflect the true cost of $9 billion as proposed by the president.