WASHINGTON, July 22, 2014 – President Barack Obama today signed the “Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act” (WIOA) which, the White House says, will “improve business engagement and accountability across federally funded training programs.” Obama hopes to highlight economic opportunities that should help middle-class Americans.
The new law amounts to the first major rewriting of the Federal job training program since the Workforce Development Act was passed by a Republican-led Congress in 1998. Obama says it will “give states and cities more flexibility in managing their job-training programs.”
The signing coincided with the release of a six-month review of federal job-training programs that stated that the government needs to better engage U.S. employers, improve the use of data, and boost apprenticeship programs so workers can earn while they train.
‘From now on, federal agencies will use specific job-driven criteria to ensure that the $17 billion in federal training funds are used more effectively,’ a senior White House official told reporters on a conference call on Monday.
Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) today praised the signing of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), H.R. 803, into law. Speaking for the group, ABC Vice President of Government Affairs Geoff Burr says:
WIOA is an important step toward addressing the shortage of qualified workers in the construction industry; this is a big win for our members. This much-needed legislation will help ensure that local stakeholders are involved in shaping job training efforts and that more job seekers have access to training programs that will prepare them for career opportunities in their local economies.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the construction industry’s need for workers will grow twice as fast as the average for all industries, noting the industry will face a likely workforce shortage of 1.6 million workers by 2022.
Will this construction industry boom create more jobs for middle-class Americans? In an article entitled “Immigration reform key to home building industry success,” Brandon Bartow of HTRN News implies that the group most likely to benefit from the new law would be immigrants seeking construction work:
Immigrant labor is essential to fill necessary positions in the industry, yet current immigration policies have caused significant obstacles for builders. Immigration reform is key for the home-building industry to continue to thrive and address the housing needs in our country. However, Congress must be mindful and pass sensible immigration reform that repairs our outdated immigration system but does not impose significant burdens on small businesses in the industry.
WIOA was first introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C. The bill passed the U.S. Senate by a vote of 95-3 June 25 and passed the House by a vote of 415-6 on July 9 with significant bipartisan support.