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Floor Statements

Kline Statement: H.R. 803, The Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills (SKILLS) Act

Despite an increase in hiring last month, our nation is still experiencing a jobs crisis. Twelve million Americans are searching for work. Nearly five million of these unemployed workers have been without a job for six months or longer.

For many Americans, the hope of a new job grows more desperate the longer they are unemployed. Jack Walerius has not had full-time work for more than three years and has lost count of the number of times he has applied for a job. He recently told CBS News, “From my perspective, from my eyes, I still see that we’re in a deep recession.”

Today we have an opportunity to advance reforms that will give workers like Jack a better chance to succeed. Our economy is extremely competitive and constantly changing. Unfortunately, the workforce training system has failed to keep up. It’s not surprising when you consider the size of the bureaucracy that now exists.

This chart is a snapshot of the current job training system. It includes more than 50 programs spread across nine federal agencies. President Obama described it as a “maze of confusing training programs.” I completely agree.

The current system is inefficient and ineffective. For individuals served through the Workforce Investment Act, less than one in five completed training; fewer than half of those who received employment assistance such as job searches and resume writing were able to find work.

To make matters worse, federal mandates stifle the engagement and innovation of employers and state and local leaders. Onerous rules prevent workers from accessing the training they need when they need it. And taxpayer dollars are being spent with little accountability.

A bloated bureaucracy is standing between workers and the support they need. We’ve tried the Washington-knows-best-approach and it isn’t working.

It is time to move in a new direction. It is time for a workforce training system that empowers job creators to meet the demands of a dynamic economy. It is time to give state and local leaders greater freedom to serve their communities. It is time for a workforce training system that spends taxpayer money wisely. It is time to invest less in bureaucracy and more in workers and training.

The SKILLS Act will help us reach these goals. The legislation replaces 35 ineffective and duplicative programs with a new Workforce Investment Fund. No more maze of programs. Instead, workers will get help through one simple and flexible source of employment support.

The bill strengthens the role of job creators, as well as state and local leaders, who know best the needs of their workforce. Doing so will ensure the skills workers receive can be applied to the jobs of today and the future, not the past.

The legislation also makes sure our most vulnerable workers – including veterans, disadvantaged youth, and individuals with disabilities – are being served. Finally, the SKILLS Act provides accountability over the use of taxpayer dollars. If a program demonstrates a pattern of failure, then taxpayers will know about it.

For ten years Congress has talked about job training reform but has failed to make reform a reality. It is time to fix the broken job training system and help put more Americans back to work. I urge my colleagues to support the SKILLS Act.

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