This week, the House Education and the Workforce Committee held a hearing called “Putting America Back to Work: Reforming the Nation’s Workforce Investment System.”
In her opening remarks, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), noted concerns that the skills gap makes it difficult for employers to fill jobs with qualified workers and that the more than 50 federal job training programs present a complicated maze for job seekers to navigate. “Instead of a dynamic network of employment support, we have a massive bureaucracy that stifles innovation and wastes resources,” her statement reads.
In response to these concerns, Rep. Foxx has introduced the Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills (SKILLS) Act, which proposes to eliminate 35 job training programs into a single one-size-fits-all block grant to states.
While we at Goodwill disagree with this approach, we are in consensus that improvements are needed to create the “dynamic network” that Rep. Foxx proposes. We believe that Congress has a strong opportunity to:
- Create a cohesive and broad workforce system that leverages the unique strengths and resources that numerous systemic components bring to the table.
- Remove the systemic barriers that allow people to fall through the cracks and that prevent them from reaching their full potential.
- Improve the productivity of business through the provision of skilled, competitive and motivated workers.
These goals should be achieved by preserving important programs and systems with a track record of success in providing a range of services to specific populations with unique barriers to employment, including veterans, people with disabilities, youth, older workers, people with a criminal background, migrant and seasonal farmworkers, Native Americans, people who are homeless, and women seeking non-traditional employment opportunities.
Unfortunately, the House Education and the Workforce Committee is expected to approve the bill along party lines next week, clearing it for consideration by the full House of Representatives soon thereafter.
Rather than stoking up old disagreements that have proven to be unproductive and divisive, Goodwill believes that Congress should develop a bipartisan bill that focuses on creating a comprehensive workforce system that leverages the unique strengths and expertise of its systemic components.
Tell Congress to set aside old disagreements to build upon the strengths of existing programs to develop a broad workforce system that serves employers and businesses, serves people, and contributes to building stronger families and communities.