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Opinion: Op-Eds

Reps: Let’s replace failed job training system with one that works

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Op-Eds

In January, President Obama told the story of Jackie Bray, who found employment after participating in a job training program at a local community college.

The president urged Congress to "cut through the maze of confusing training programs" so workers have "one program" for all the help they need and help provide two million workers with skills that can lead to good paying jobs. 

The president's challenge is one we have embraced. The House Education and the Workforce Committee will tomorrow consider legislation that lays the foundation for a new workforce training system and helps millions of workers receive the training that leads to success in the workplace.

The need for reform has never been more urgent. Washington currently administers roughly 47 programs across nine federal agencies. Each year taxpayers pour billions of dollars into workforce development and employment services programs, yet only a handful have been evaluated to determine whether they actually help workers.

During 2011, the committee held numerous hearings to examine the current workforce development system. Employers described job opportunities that go unfilled as they struggle to hire a skilled workforce.

Individuals expressed disappointment with programs that fail to match the demand of local businesses. And state and local leaders outlined federal policies that undermine their ability to create a dynamic network of employment support for workers.

Nearly 13 million Americans are searching for work, yet 3.7 million jobs remain open and unfilled. Nurses, software developers, and truck drivers are all in high demand yet employers can’t find enough skilled labor.

Imagine participating in a government program that doesn’t prepare you for employment in your local community and you will understand the frustration countless workers face.

With unemployment above 8 percent for more than three years and the national debt approaching $16 trillion, we cannot ignore a broken system any longer. The time for studying the problem is over.

We are determined to change the status quo and turn the president's words into action.  Through a series of commonsense improvements, the Workforce Investment Improvement Act of 2012 (H.R. 4297) will put us on the path toward more effective and efficient employment assistance.

First, the Workforce Investment Improvement Act of 2012 eliminates dozens of ineffective and programs and creates one, flexible Workforce Investment Fund.

Instead of navigating a "confusing maze" of programs, state and local leaders will have a single source of federal support to deliver to workers the skills and education they need.

Second, H.R. 4297 strengthens the role of employers in workforce development decisions. Today, workforce investment boards are mired in bureaucracy.

Nineteen federal mandates dictate who can serve on each board. Our legislation repeals these mandates, reserves two-thirds of each board's seats for employers, and allows state and local leaders to fill the remaining seats. 

Finally, the legislation provides greater accountability and transparency over the use of taxpayer dollars. The bill requires common performance measures that will allow the public to judge the success of programs without burying local leaders under a mountain of paperwork.

The Department of Labor will have to conduct an independent audit of each program at least once every five years. Taxpayers will finally learn whether their hard earned dollars are getting positive results.

There are many more people like Jackie Bray out there looking to get back to work. The Workforce Investment Improvement Act of 2012 embodies principles of reform the president says he believes in.

We hope he will join us. While speeches can rally a crowd, they won't put one American back to work. Joining Republican efforts to fix the broken job training system will.

Reps. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA), and Joe Heck (R-NV) are members of the House Education and the Workforce Committee and original sponsors of the Workforce Investment Improvement Act of 2012.

 

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