As President Obama signed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Tuesday – a job training that passed the House earlier this month – he thanked Democrats and Republicans alike for the rare moment of bipartisanship, joking “I am also inviting you back, let’s do this more often, it’s so much fun.”
“Look at everybody, everybody’s smiling, everybody feels good, we could be doing this all the time,” the president said.
WIOA is a bipartisan bill that modernizes federal job training programs while giving states more flexibility to customize their training programs, in addition to bolstering programs aimed at those with disabilities. It aims to fix the country’s muddled and inefficient federal job training programs, which spend $18 billion annually on 47 separate employment-training programs – many of which overlap with each other – according to the Government Accountability Office.To double down on that effort, the president and vice president are also rolling out a string of federal-led efforts to further bolster the middle class.
The executive actions, the product of a task-force headed by Vice President Joe Biden and charged with reforming the country’s job training programs, commit millions of dollars toward making those programs smarter and more efficient.
The bulk of the actions encourage employers and communities to train their own employees based on data highlighting their return on investment, and employ competitive grants – $2.4 billion over the next two years – to fund the programs. They also attempt to increase oversight and measure efficiency, something current federal training programs have been criticized for not doing.
“The mission here is very simple, and it goes back to the central economic vision that has guided us since our first day in office: building a strong and thriving middle class,” Vice President Joe Biden wrote in a 76-page release that announced the actions today.
The Department of Education will also begin waiving certain student aid rules to allow degrees to be conferred based on skill tests, rather than credit hours, and the Department of Labor will spend $25 million to create an online database aimed at helping adults train for in-demand careers.
“Now that we have recovered from the Great Recession, we must expand opportunity to the people who need it most: the working men and women who represent the backbone of the world’s most dynamic and thriving economy,” Biden wrote.