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ICYMI: The Job Training Mess


More than a decade ago, Congress established a new workforce investment system to provide individuals with the skills and training necessary to succeed in the workplace. Regrettably, the system has since corroded, shifting from a helpful network of employment support to the confusing maze of bureaucracy and redundant programs detailed in the Wall Street Journal editorial below.

While President Obama continues to talk about the problems with job training and offer conflicting plans for reform, House Education and the Workforce Committee Republicans are moving forward with real solutions. The Workforce Investment Improvement Act of 2012 will streamline and strengthen the nation’s workforce development system by consolidating and eliminating dozens of ineffective or duplicative programs, enhancing the role of job creators in workforce development decisions, and improving accountability over the use of taxpayer dollars.

To learn more about the Workforce Investment Improvement Act of 2012 (H.R. 4297), click here.

President Obama was on the stump in Ohio last month claiming to have discovered a successful federal job training program in the town of Elyria. This deserves congratulations. As millions of unemployed Americans can attest, a federal job training program that puts people back to work is hard to find.

There are no fewer than 49 federal job training programs administered by nine agencies that cost taxpayers some $14.5 billion in 2010. A General Accountability Office performance audit in 2011 looked at fiscal year 2009 and determined that "only 5 of the 47 programs have had impact studies that assess whether the program is responsible for improved employment outcomes."

Of the five programs studied, the positive effect "tended to be small, inconclusive, or restricted to short-term impacts." A 2011 Department of Labor study found that the benefits of job training under one of the most extensive efforts, the 1998 Workforce Investment Act, "were small or nonexistent."

GAO reports in the 1990s, in 2000 and in 2003 had similar conclusions, finding that multiple programs duplicated efforts, ran up costs and produced few benefits. The reports did little to stem mission creep.

From 2003 to 2009, Congress added three more programs and spending rose by $5 billion. Don't laugh, but two more programs have been added since, though spending is down slightly because of the end of the 2009 stimulus.

Senator Tom Coburn (R., Ok.), who commissioned the 2011 GAO study, summarized the waste, fraud and graft in a report of his own. Among the incidents: "a Montana trade union tasked with managing a half-million dollar federal job re-training grant" that "was found to be spending four times as much on their own salaries than they were on actual training displaced workers."

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