The Employment and Workplace Safety Subcommittee of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee held a hearing this morning focused on modernizing the Workforce Investment Act. As a sign that the subcommittee wants to better coordinate the workforce system with education, both Jane Oates, the Assistant Secretary for ETA at the Department of Labor, and Martha Kanter, the Under Secretary of Education, testified on the first panel of witnesses. Both Oates and Kanter stressed that the workforce system and education must work together to improve training and job prospects for today’s workers and students. Their Departments have been working together on joint issues and plan to continue this collaboration. More specifically, they want to work on integrating literacy and remedial education with skills training. As for how Congress can better align the work of these two agencies, Oates suggested common performance measures that cut across both Labor and Education, while Kanter advocated for integrated data systems.
When asked about the President’s vision for the workforce system, Kanter stated that his community college initiative will help create the most competitive and highly educated workforce in the world through an increase in the number of degrees completed and credentials obtained. She pointed out that these credentials may be completed at community colleges, CBOs, or through industry. Oates described the President’s vision as a multi-pronged approach of which WIA and the community college initiative are two important pieces.
At the end of the panel, Senator Patty Murray (WA) asked how each of their agencies define “post-secondary education” in light of the President’s call for every American to get at least one year of post-secondary education. Kanter said that the Department of Education views it broadly as “advanced training after high school”, including industry certifications. Oates said that the Department of Labor sees credentials as a step towards an Associates or Bachelors degree.