Senate Committee Examines WIA Reauthorization, Experts Call for Postsecondary Support

While talks on Capitol Hill suggest that the reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) is being held up by health care legislation, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) on Wednesday reminded attendees that President Obama has declared job creation the nation’s priority.

“That’s why we must act swiftly to ensure that American workers have the education, training skills and support to compete and thrive in the 21st century global job market,” Harkin said.

At the hearing, A Stronger Workforce Investment System for a Stronger Economy, education and workforce experts urged the HELP committee to recognize the significant role WIA plays in the nation’s economic recovery. The hearing is the first of a series that the committee plans to hold as Congress considers reauthorization of WIA.

The witnesses, who included Anthony Carnevale Director of Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, and Robert Templin, President of Virginia Community College, pressed the committee to provide the resources and services that enable individuals to earn credentials or degrees – the ticket to career entry and advancement.

To provide those opportunities, Carnevale said the Obama Administration has provided a “strong start” in aligning the Department of Labor and the Department of Education by asking for a set aside of $261 million to break down program silos and create Workforce Innovation Partnerships.

“The mismatch between job growth and skill is a growing problem in the American economy,’ Carnevale said in his testimony. “Thus, our ability to align our huge investments in postsecondary education and training programs funded by DOE with job openings and labor market services funded by DOL has become crucial.”

Templin echoed Carnevale’s emphasis on postsecondary training, but also added that such programs must prepare students with a broad educational and training base in which they may build upon.

“Without broader foundational knowledge, postsecondary-level training, a portable credential and actual job experience, narrowly focused skill development too often results in a one-way ticket to entry level jobs that are the first to the lost at the next technology innovation or economic downturn,” Templin said in his testimony.

The experts’ recommendations align with the strategies already in place for CTE programs of study, which maps out a comprehensive approach to education and training. As Congress moves forward with its reauthorization efforts in WIA, we hope they hear the message that all students will need to have access to quality education and training programs prior to entering the workforce.

View NASDCTEc’s WIA recommendations.

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