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Mr. President, We Know What’s Wrong With the Broken Job Training System; It’s Time to Fix It

In his State of the Union address, President Obama called for a “year of action” that left many Americans unimpressed. As one political journalist wrote, the president’s agenda includes “small-bore executive orders, studies, summits.” President Obama’s lackluster to-do list was especially evident when he announced Vice President Joe Biden would address job training reform by merely conducting a review of the workforce development system.  

For those in desperate need of new skills and a job, waiting for the vice president to study the problem is time their families cannot afford. So to help expedite this redundant review process, the House Education and the Workforce Committee has compiled a list of important job training facts the vice president needs to know: 

  • FACT: Workers and job-seekers are struggling to navigate a complicated and bloated bureaucracy. The federal government administers more than 50 employment and training programs across nine federal agencies. In 2012 President Obama described the system as a “maze of confusing training programs.” Most of these programs are duplicative, which means taxpayers dollars are being wasted. 

  • FACT: Onerous federal mandates are stifling local workforce leaders. State and local workforce investment boards are responsible for oversight of employment and training services, yet the federal government imposes numerous mandates dictating who can and cannot serve on the board. As a result, these important decision-making bodies can be unmanageable.  

  • FACT: Even more federal mandates stand between workers and the skills they need to succeed. If a worker wants to jump immediately into training, federal law requires the worker to first complete a cumbersome “sequence of services” that includes career counseling and lessons on resume writing. A system that is supposed to support workers is now an impediment to the very skills they need. 

  • FACT: The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has already completed an exhaustive review of the federal workforce development system. Since 2011, the GAO has issued four reports highlighting various weaknesses in federal job training support. The GAO has looked at duplication in the current system and difficulties matching workers with in-demand jobs. The GAO’s comprehensive research has helped reveal what’s wrong with the current system and how to fix it. 

  • FACT: The House Education and the Workforce Committee has spent years thoroughly examining the federal job training system. Over the last three years, the committee has convened 7 hearings that addressed myriad issues within the current workforce development system. More than a dozen witnesses discussed the strengths and witnesses of current job training policies, as well as positive ideas for reform. 

  • FACT: Job training reform is long overdue. The Workforce Investment Act – a primary source of federal job training support – was enacted in 1998. The law has been due for reauthorization since 2003, yet Congress has never updated the law. As a result, these and other important policies have been left on auto-pilot for more than 15 years.  

  • FACT: The House approved comprehensive job training reform legislation almost one year ago. In March 2013 the Republican-led House passed the Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills (SKILLS) Act. The legislation will empower employers, rein in bureaucracy, and provide workers with a more dynamic, flexible, and effective network of job training services

While these are all important facts, it’s most critical the vice president know this: More than 10 million Americans are searching for a job today, including nearly four million who’ve been out of work for six months or longer. They need job training reform, not another review that identifies problems we already know exist. As House Speaker John Boehner noted earlier this week: 

It’s been more than 15 years since we last updated our job training programs.  It’s about time we do this.  And with so many Americans still asking ‘where are the jobs?,’ it’s clearly past time that we do this. 

The president wants to take a step back when we should be moving forward with serious job training reform. If this is the type of “action” the president wants to take this year, millions of job-seekers will remain disappointed and unemployed. 

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