This week, I arrived at my office to experience an odd sensation. I couldn’t put my finger on it. Something was different, but what? I stood scrutinizing my somewhat cluttered office. Then my eyes focused on a 10-inch stack of dog-eared paper, my Workforce Investment Act (WIA) pile, and it suddenly dawned on me. Last week, Congress overwhelming cleared the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) (H.R. 803) for the President’s expected signature.
The action signals the end of an 11-year effort to reauthorize the nation’s job training program. To put that into perspective, that means that the WIA reauthorization effort spanned two Presidential administrations (a Republican and a Democrat) and six Congresses (108th–113th), wherein control cycled through every conceivable political scenario. Meanwhile, our nation weathered and slowly recovered from the worst recession since the Great Depression.
Clearly the road to reauthorization has been a rough one. A number of bills showed promise, yet they failed to survive the legislative and polarized political process. Countless, often bitterly partisan, Congressional hearings and committee markups were held. And the long delay left workforce programs vulnerable to criticism and funding steadily eroded for a decade. Particularly because this is an election year, many workforce system proponents feared that, once again, the window was quickly closing for passing a bill.
Who could have guessed that the often frustrating process would result in such lopsided votes? The Senate voted 95-3 in June, and the House voted 415-6 to pass the votes. Such overwhelmingly bipartisan votes are very rare. The significance of this fact and the lesson therein should not be easily forgotten by workforce system proponents—persistence pays. At the end of the day, the countless meetings conducted and numerous letters, e-mails and testimonies written by workforce system stakeholders, including Goodwill®, over the past 11 years helped to build overwhelming bipartisan support for the nation’s workforce system.
Now it’s important to maintain this bipartisan support that took years to build. How? First, take time to thank your members of Congress for their “aye” vote to pass H.R. 803. (Click here to thank members of Congress who voted for the bill.)
In addition, it’s important for workforce system proponents to remain engaged with their elected officials and keep them informed about the value of job training programs and other community resources.