WASHINGTON, D.C. | March 6, 2013
Reforming the nation’s workforce development system is critical, and in these difficult economic times, where roughly 20 million Americans are struggling to find adequate work, we cannot afford to delay action any longer. Time is costly for those seeking to find work. Today many un-and-underemployed Americans have turned to federal workforce education programs to try and develop the skills they need to be competitive for jobs. But instead of an easy-to-navigate, responsive system, many have found a complex bureaucracy unresponsive to their needs and concerns.
We know this is a problem. We all agree this needs to change. If we let the status quo persist, we would be guilty of malpractice. As Chairman Kline stated, each day we delay is another day employers aren’t hiring the workers they need, another day unemployed workers aren’t receiving the best technical education, and another day taxpayer dollars are wasted on red tape and well-intentioned, but broken programs. We have a responsibility to move this process forward. The time to act is now.
The amendment in the nature of a substitute for the SKILLS Act makes a number of technical clarifications, but it also includes a few important changes that I would like to highlight.
First, the substitute amendment will require the Office of Management and Budget, instead of the Department of Labor, to identify and reduce the number of federal staff working on the employment and workforce development programs that will be consolidated by H.R. 803. This commonsense reform, added by Representative Rokita during last year’s markup of similar legislation, ensures taxpayer dollars are used to support direct services for unemployed Americans – not an unnecessary bureaucracy. The amendment brings transparency and accountability to the process by requiring states and local entities to report what they spend on administrative costs.
Second, the substitute will eliminate the 21st Century Workforce Commission, which has become outdated and has not even been funded in recent years. There is no reason for another redundant program to remain on the books, adding more clutter to the workforce development system.
Finally, recognizing that formula changes in the SKILLS Act may create growing pains for some states, the substitute will extend for three years the 100 percent hold-harmless provision for states and local areas. This will allow leaders an opportunity to adjust their policies and programs to ensure the maximum level of support for workers and employers can continue.
The substitute amendment and the underlying bill will build a more dynamic and responsive workforce development system, prioritize well-paying in-demand industries, expand opportunities at community colleges, and - most importantly - treat all job seekers as individuals. These changes are critical at a time when the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates more than 3.6 million open jobs are going unfilled because there aren’t enough skilled candidates. Additionally, we are doing what President Obama asked for in his 2012 State of the Union address. We are cutting “through the maze of confusing training programs, so that from now on, people…have one program…one place to go for all the information and help that they need.”
Let’s reform these programs to serve employers and individuals in an effective and efficient manner. I urge my colleagues to lend their support.