H.R. 4227: Workforce Investment Act (WIA) of 2012

With two years of private-sector job growth, there are signs that the nation’s economy is on the road to recovery.  Despite the improved economy, more than 13 million Americans remain unemployed, more than 40 percent of whom have been looking for work for six months or more. At the same time, many employers in health care, advanced manufacturing, and other high-growth sectors report that they cannot find the skilled workers needed to fill up to 3.5 million current job openings across the country.

That’s why the current workforce investment system needs to be modernized to assist these out-of-work Americans, including the long-term unemployed, acquire the skills that growing industries desire. Real investments in our workforce are not only critical for maintaining momentum for the current recovery, but also for our long term global competitiveness.

The Workforce Investment Act of 2012 – introduced by Reps. John Tierney (D-MA), Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX) and George Miller (D-CA) – will improve the nation’s workforce investment infrastructure, focusing on finding workers jobs and careers through strategic partnerships with in-demand sector employers, community colleges, labor organizations, and non-profits. 

The Democratic approach to WIA reauthorization is driven by three core principles:

  • Streamlining and improving workforce investment system programs.
  • Strengthening workforce investment system accountability.
  • Promoting innovation and best practices within the workforce investment system.

The Workforce Investment Act of 2012 will do this by making critical improvements to the current system, including:

Streamlining and Improving Workforce Program Services:

  • Requires states to establish unified state plans that streamline and coordinate the operation of job training, adult education, and postsecondary education programs.
  • Requires state and local workforce investment boards to implement career pathways strategies and initiatives that offer career advancement to workers. 
  • Expands use of on-the-job training, incumbent worker training, transitional jobs, and paid work experience so that individuals can learn and work and enter or reenter the labor market more quickly.
  • The bill improves access to training by making clear that individuals can immediately access services in any sequence.
  • Requires training programs to offer multiple exit and entry points for workers at various skill levels and career stages.
  • Allows local areas  the flexibility to contract directly with community colleges to provide specialized group training classes that are designed for employers who are looking to hire many workers with a particular skill.
  • Codifies the co-location of Employment Service and One-Stop Centers offices and clarifies the Employment Service role in assisting unemployed individuals.

Improving Accountability and Transparency through Performance Measures and Reporting Across Programs:

  • Establishes commonreporting and performance measures across all job training, adult education, Wagner-Peyser, and Vocational Rehabilitation programs.
  • Provides workers and employers with easy access to performance outcome information for past participants and programs so that they can make informed decisions about which programs most likely will meet their needs. 
  • Adjusts performance measurement for areas that serve hard-to-serve populations. 
  • Measures system performance not just on how many individuals are placed into jobs, but also by how many individuals gain recognized postsecondary credentials for employment. 
  • Establishes an additional performance measure for employer satisfaction.
  • Ensures that more individuals receive training by requiring states to designate a portion of funding specifically for training.
  • Authorizes separate funding for infrastructure spending thereby reserving all other funds for worker and employer services.
  • Creates a national WIA identifier so that workers and employers know when they are using WIA funded services.

Promoting Innovation and Promising Practices:

  • Codifies the Workforce Innovation Fund, a competitive grant program to support the development and expansion of new and promising strategies including career pathways, sector partnerships and regional approaches.
  • Provides additional capacity and incentives for states and local areas to implement and expand sector initiatives through industry or labor-management partnerships and increases opportunities for collaboration, regional planning, and resource alignment in key growth sectors, such as advanced manufacturing. 
  • Encourages states and businesses to invest in America through the availability of training to quickly provide skilled local workforces.
  • Expands information sharing between the Department of Labor, states and local areas.

Expanding the Role of Community Colleges in Job Training:

  • Authorizes funding for President Obama’s Community College to Career Fund to expand capacity to train workers in high-growth industries, such as health care, transportation, and advanced manufacturing. 
  • Supports pathways to entrepreneurship by providing training in starting a small business.
  • Allows community colleges to contract for class-size training (not just student-by-student payments).
  • Moves the workforce investment system towards a common system of recognized credentials.

Developing a 21st Century Delivery System for Adult Education Literacy and Workplace Skills Services:

  • Expands access to adult education, literacy services, and workplace skills training.
  • Expands access to postsecondary education and credentials to achieve and maintain economic self-sufficiency for adult learners. 
  • Supports integrated adult education and training. 
  • Provides support for English-literacy services and integrated English-literacy and civics education programs for adult learners.
  • Authorizes increased investments in technology (such as online education) and digital literacy, providing needed training and education resources to rural and urban areas. 
  • Enhances support for research on innovative methods and policies that help accelerate progress for basic skills students, improving the likelihood that they will receive postsecondary credentials.

Engaging Youth through Multiple Pathways to Success:

  • Expands access to work experience programs, including summer employment, internships, pre-apprenticeship programs, on-the-job training, and service activities. 
  • Amends the definition of disadvantaged youth to include youth through age 24.
  • Increases income eligibility to 150 percent of poverty. 
  • Requires states to assess the needs of and serve youth with disabilities, including through job exploration and mentoring.
  • Requires that, at minimum, 60 percent of youth formula funds should be spent on out-of-school youth. 
  • Authorizes the competitive Youth Innovation Fund focused on areas of high youth unemployment and poverty to spur the development of innovative strategies.
  • Requires all Job Corps Centers to meet and upgrade their standards of performance.

Creates Competitive Employment Services and Opportunities for Individuals With Disabilities

  • Establishes competitive integrated employment as the goal for vocational rehabilitation services.
  • Expands services for supported employment and customized employment for individuals with disabilities.
  • Requires states to provide pre-employment transition services for youth with disabilities and establishes national and local transition coordinators to facilitate those services.
  • Increases outreach to employers for hiring individuals with disabilities.
  • Codifies the Office of Disability Employment Policy at the Department of Labor.