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House Passes Upgrade to Massive Job Training Legislation

With overwhelming bipartisan support, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill (378-26) that commits nearly $40 billion to revamping federal workforce development and training programs. 

The legislation: The bill, the Stronger Workforce for America Act (H.R. 6655), would provide significant updates and new funding to the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. That law, passed in 2014 with the support of HR Policy, substantially overhauled federal job training and workforce development programs including providing employers with more reimbursement for work-based learning programs. The new bill would reauthorize and re-fund the WIOA for the first time in a decade, and specifically would, among other actions: 

  • Direct at least 50% of funding for adult and dislocated workers to skills development and training programs, including employer on-the-job training and employer-directed skills development.

  • Establish new statewide requirements to coordinate with employers and industry and education stakeholders to develop competency-based assessments of adult workers’ skills. 

  • Set aside additional funding for awarding performance-based payments to employers that provide skills development to workers in priority industries with high growth rates and wages – tech and semiconductor industries, for example. 

  • Expand eligibility requirements for students and youths for short-term job training programs. 

Takeaways for employers:

  • The new bill would allow for new and streamlined ways for employers to receive reimbursements for upskilling and training programs, particularly for those employers deemed to be in “critical industries” (as determined by the state). 

  • In theory, the bill could help alleviate critical labor shortages in different sectors – most notably STEM – and reward employers for taking steps to help close such skills gaps. 

  • The action is timely beyond tech, as McKinsey recently reported that annual hiring for critical skilled trade roles between 2022 and 2032 is expected to be more than 20 times the projected increase in net new jobs, potentially costing employers $5.3 billion annually in acquisition and training costs.

What’s next: The bill must now clear the 60-vote threshold in the Senate to become law. Given the overwhelming bipartisan support the legislation received in the House (175 Republicans and 203 Democrats), passage in the Senate is probable, although no vote has yet been scheduled. Passage would be a rare bipartisan achievement in the current partisan environment – perhaps federal lawmaking is still possible!

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Authors: Gregory Hoff

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