It’s an exciting and important day for all of us who believe that re-investing in the most skilled and talented workforce in the world should be one of our nation’s top priorities.
In recent years, more than 20 million people annually have turned to federal programs for basic education, job training and employment services. During the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes, the workforce system served as the nation’s emergency room, administering the critical care to help people get back on their feet. And now, it will be even more robust and resilient.
Today, the president signed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, by far the most significant reform of federal job training programs in more than 15 years and a critical step toward helping workers and employers succeed in the 21st century economy.
WIOA strengthens the public workforce system and the partnerships that sustain it, by unifying and streamlining services to better serve job-seekers. It will improve accountability and transparency within the system. It will elevate work-based learning strategies like Registered Apprenticeship and sector strategies that address the needs of multiple employers within an industry. It will foster coordinated planning within economic regions. And it addresses the needs of veterans and of other populations facing unique economic challenges, including out-of-school youth, people with disabilities and the long-term unemployed.
At the end of the day, job-seekers will have improved tools to identify and access training options and other employment services best suited to their needs. And businesses will be more closely connected to the system, with better resources available to find and train the skilled workers they need to grow their companies.
At the same time that Congress was negotiating WIOA, Vice President Biden has been working since the beginning of the year on his review of federal job training programs, a task given to him by President Obama in the State of the Union address. The animating principle of this review is “job-driven training.” To put people on the path to meaningful careers, we need to provide them with the skills, credentials and certifications that businesses are looking for right now. We must ask this question about everything we do: is it helping ready-to-work-Americans move into ready-to-be-filled jobs?
The Labor Department, along with our colleagues at the Departments of Education, Commerce and several other federal agencies, collaborated closely with the vice president during his months of information-gathering, and I had the chance to travel with him to showcase programs that work.
Today, the vice president released his findings. His report’s recommendations align with WIOA and advance the same goals: greater coordination and more strategic use of federal resources to yield better results; transparent and relevant information so job-seekers and the public know what works; putting business front and center so our investments are directly responsive to hiring needs. It focuses on the imperative of fielding a full team, maximizing our human capital and leaving no worker behind. And the report provides a job-driven checklist, based on evidence of what works in job training, to guide administrative reforms.
We have a lot of work ahead of us to implement WIOA and complete other reforms outlined in the vice president’s report. As we take next steps, we are emboldened by a broad consensus in favor of our efforts.
The passage of WIOA is all the more remarkable in the current political environment. At a time when Congress has struggled to find common ground on critical issues, there is overwhelming bipartisan unity on reinvigorating the workforce system. Democrats and Republicans are rallying around shared values, the belief that we must give people the tools to climb ladders of opportunity and punch their ticket to the middle class.
The Labor Department, working with our federal partners and communities nationwide, will lead the road ahead. I am excited about the progress we have made. And with the leadership of the president and the support of so many others, I am looking forward to the successes still to come.
Follow Secretary Perez on Twitter as @LaborSec.