WASHINGTON, D.C. | June 7, 2012 -
Thank you, Chairman Kline. Before I describe the changes included in the substitute amendment, I would like to thank you and your staff for all the hard work invested in the legislation we are considering today. I would also like to thank Representatives Buck McKeon and Joe Heck – my partners in this important endeavor – for their valuable contributions to the Workforce Investment Improvement Act of 2012.
We all recognize the urgent need to reform a broken workforce development system. The American people are fed up with endless layers of complexity in the federal government, especially at a time of high unemployment and record debt. Federal workforce education programs are hopelessly redundant, offering unnecessary confusion and bureaucracy across more than 47 separate programs. When workers are in desperate need of help, they are finding little hope and a lot of frustration in the current workforce development system.
Today, we have an opportunity to deliver real change that will provide the skills and education workers need to succeed in the workplace. The Workforce Investment Improvement Act of 2012 streamlines the byzantine workforce development system, delivers more effective services to workers, fosters better coordination with employers, and creates a system more responsive and accountable to taxpayers.
Since the start of the 112th Congress, reauthorizing the Workforce Investment Act has been a top priority for the committee. The path to reform has been an open legislative process which has allowed us to identify the challenges in the current system and the commonsense solutions needed to move in a better direction. The substitute amendment reflects our desire to incorporate the best ideas and address the concerns raised by members and the public.
A list of the changes included in the substitute amendment has been available since yesterday morning. However, I would like to briefly highlight a few reforms included in the amendment.
To ensure we are doing all we can to support our nation’s youth, the substitute amendment requires state and local workforce leaders to specify the strategies and services they will offer at-risk youth. The amendment also provides for disadvantaged youth participation in the statewide grant program for individuals with unique barriers to employment. At a time when one out of every four teenage workers is unemployed, these changes will further help disadvantaged youth complete a high school education, as well as gain skills and work experience that can lead to their future success.
The amendment adds credentials recognized by leaders in industry and higher education to the list of common performance measures, one more tool to help close the skills gap standing between employers and workers. The amendment also increases the resources set aside for statewide activities, reflecting an important principle of reform that state and local leaders are better suited to help meet the needs of workers.
Additionally, the substitute amendment ensures that as we reduce the federal role in workforce development, we also take steps to reduce the size of the federal workforce. Taxpayer dollars should support direct services for unemployed Americans – not an unnecessary bureaucracy.
Finally, the amendment demands fundamental changes to the Job Corps program. For too long, this program has been permitted to squander hard earned taxpayer dollars under the guise of helping at-risk youth. A scathing report by the Department of Labor’s Inspector General found a large number of centers mismanaged taxpayer funds, grossly exaggerated their performance, spent few resources on skills and education, and ignored basic health and safety standards. The flaws in the program have become so well-known even the Obama administration has proposed closing centers that are “chronically low-performing.”
Any serious workforce development reform must tackle the challenges plaguing Job Corps. As such, the substitute amendment makes significant changes to the program, including: Ensuring career and technical education provided at Job Corps centers focus on in-demand occupations; requiring strong performance and accountability measures; provisions to shut down centers with a history of failure; and a requirement that all participants regularly reapply for federal funding to ensure only the best centers are serving at-risk youth.
The goal of the substitute amendment is simple: strengthen the underlying bill through provisions developed with the input of members and key stakeholders. I want to thank my colleagues for their ongoing engagement and commitment to workforce development reform and urge a “yes” vote on the substitute amendment.
# # #