Skip to Content

E&W Blog

Hearing Recap: WIOA (Part II)

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 20, 2023
Today, the Higher Education and Workforce Development Subcommittee held a hearing entitled “Strengthening WIOA: Improving Outcomes for Jobseekers, Employers, and Taxpayers.” 

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) was enacted in 2014 to help narrow the skills gap by equipping jobseekers with the skills and abilities required in the modern workforce. That being said, WIOA hasn’t been updated in nearly 10 years, and key reforms are needed to help ensure the workforce system is delivering high-quality services to jobseekers and job creators.

Chairman Burgess Owens (R-UT) kicked off the hearing by identifying lingering issues in the economy, and thus the need for reform, remarking, “In July of 2014, the United State had 4.8 million unfilled jobs. In July of this year, there were 8.8 million unfilled jobs, an increase of four million. Further, the labor force participation rate has not improved a bit since WIOA was enacted.”

The desire for upskilling and reskilling the American workforce was shared by both sides of the aisle, and each expert witness drew on his or her own experience to discuss possible reforms.

Scott Sanders, President and CEO of the National Association of Workforce Agencies, recalled the lessons his members learned from the pandemic, underscoring that “while NASWA members represent different populations, economies, and administrative structures, they agree that increased flexibility is essential.”

Rya Conrad-Bradshaw, Vice President of Corporate Markets at the Cengage Group, discussed the importance of improving data coordination within the WIOA system. In her opening statement, Ms. Conrad-Bradshaw said, “A new DOL website designed to show performance information by programs shows that over 75 percent lack basic information on completion, employment rates, median earnings, and credentials earned.”

Moving to questioning, many Members focused on the meat-and-potatoes issues impacting their home districts.

Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-PA) brought up a technical school from his district, Thaddeus Stevens College, that is unable to be added to WIOA’s Eligible Trainer Provider List (ETPL), citing bureaucratic complications as the main obstacle. Regarding the ETPL application process, he asked the simple question, “Do you think it works?” 

In response, Ms. Conrad-Bradshaw echoed Rep. Smuckers’ sentiment that this issue is all-too-common, and that she advocates for “a very clear focus on program outcomes and program standards, and for those programs that can demonstrate those standards reliably, there should be more streamlined access to ETPL.”

The over-complicated bureaucracy within the workforce system was a theme for many Members, as they have all heard from local employers that burdensome paperwork deters them from engaging with the workforce system.

Nobody agrees more than Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI), who used his five minutes to raise concerns about overregulation, overspending, and overreach from the government in general. To AEI Fellow Mason Bishop, he questioned, “What do you think of the idea about taking this whole WIOA thing and throwing it back on the states?”

Mr. Bishop responded, as a conservative, “I do believe there is a role—a federal role—for funding and employment and training and education programs, but again, a role that is targeted and that frees up the states and communities to be able to provide those services to those vulnerable individuals.”

Lastly, Rep. Nathaniel Moran (R-TX) explored the possibility of giving states more flexibility under WIOA youth programs. Specifically, he considered allowing more states to direct youth program funding to Individual Training Accounts.

He posed the question: “Does anyone disagree with setting up these Individual Training Accounts for youth programs?”

Crickets. Rep. Moran found consensus from a panel of four experts, a rare sight in Washington. That’s because there is broad agreement that Congress has a role to play in setting up our future workforce with the greatest opportunity to achieve a lifetime of success.

Bottom Line: The Committee took a major step towards delivering efficiency, flexibility, and accountability for America’s workforce system.
Stay Connected