Workforce Investment Act Reform

The current federal workforce development system is wrought with overlap and wasted fund management; so much so that in 2011, the Government Accountability Office’s issued a report focused on the duplicity and considerable overlap of programs under the current Workforce Investment Act. The GAO discovered that in the fiscal year 2009, nine federal agencies spent approximately $18 billion to administer 47 programs—an increase of roughly $5 billion since a 2003 report.
They also discovered that almost all federal employment and training programs, including those with broader missions such as multipurpose block grants, overlap with at least one other program.


In fact, all but three of the programs they surveyed overlapped with at least one other program, in that they provide similar service to a similar population. All ten programs that serve multiple groups overlap with another program. For example, a variety of groups—including both employed and unemployed individuals—can receive employment counseling and assessment, job readiness skills training, and occupational or vocational training from three different programs: the Career and Technical Education—Basic Grants to States program, the Community-Based Job Training Grants program, and the H-1B Job Training Grants program.


34 of the 37 programs that serve a primary target population overlap with another program. In addition, nine of these require participants to be economically disadvantaged. The target populations being served by the most programs are Native Americans, veterans, and youth. The GAO survey data showed that seven programs accounted for about three-fourths ($13.5 billion) of the $18 billion spent on employment and training services in fiscal year 2009. The largest of the seven, Rehabilitation Services—Vocational Rehabilitation Grants to States, operated by the Department of Education, used about $3 billion in fiscal year 2009 to fund employment and training services for individuals with disabilities.


This astonishing example of government waste prompted the President during his 2012 State of the Union Address to state that he wants to cut through the maze of confusing training programs, so that from now on, people have one program, one website, and one place to go for all the information and help that they need. And this is exactly what the SKILLS Act will accomplish.


The SKILLS Act would eliminate and streamline 35 ineffective and redundant employment and training programs and create a Workforce Investment Fund to serve as a single source of support for employers, workers, and job seekers.




The SKILLS Act strengthens the role of employers in workforce development decisions by requiring two-thirds of workforce board members are employers and focuses training on in-demand occupations. Furthermore, the proposal requires state and local leaders to use a set of common performance measures for services offered to workers, improving accountability and protecting taxpayer dollars.


The SKILLS Act also eliminates arbitrary roadblocks that prevent workers from accessing job training immediately, and helps ensure support is tailored to the specific needs of individual workers.  State and local workforce investment boards are responsible for policy and oversight of employment and training services. The proposal repeals 19 mandates affecting who can serve on the boards and empowers state and local officials to appoint the remaining members.


This bill is a critical first step in reforming our nation’s outdated Workforce Development System, as it offers an effective solution in dealing with the current skills gap crisis in America. With more than 12 million unemployed Americans, the SKILLS Act ensures that more Americans are educated in skills that businesses all over America are looking for.