On Thursday, March 14, 2013, the House will begin consideration of H.R. 803, the Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills (SKILLS) Act, under a rule. H.R. 803 was introduced on February 25, 2013 by Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC). The bill was reported out of the Education and Workforce Committee on March 6, 2013 by a vote of 23-0. Amendments made in order will be the subject of an additional Legislative Digest.
H.R. 803 reforms our nation’s workforce development system, including the streamlining of duplicative and ineffective job training programs. In 2011, GAO identified more than 47 programs that were ineffective or duplicative. H.R. 803 streamlines federal workforce development programs, eliminating and consolidating 35 programs, including 26 identified in the GAO report.
Moreover, H.R. 803 creates a workforce investment fund to serve as a single source of federal support for employers; ensures two thirds of state and local workforce investment boards members are employers; eliminates 19 federal mandates regarding state and local workforce board representation, allowing locally elected officials to determine the remaining board members; requires local workforce boards to analyze regularly the area’s workforce needs; requires state and local leaders to adhere to common performance measures for all workforce development services; requires an independent evaluation of training programs every five years; strengthens the ability of governors to designate the location of workforce areas in their respective states; allows states to continue submitting a unified statewide workforce plan for all employment and training services; allows governors to consolidate additional programs into the workforce investment fund for the express purpose of providing greater administrative flexibility; allows states to determine the standards required for eligible training providers; allows local boards to contract with community colleges directly to provide training to large groups; allows individuals to receive the support that best meets their needs; requires local boards to spend a portion of the resources directly on training; requires service providers to contribute a portion of their resources to support the One-Stop-Career Centers’ infrastructure; reforms Job Corps to ensure that career and technical education and training is geared toward in-demand occupations and that disadvantaged youth receive a regular high school diploma or recognized postsecondary credential; establishes new accountability standards for Job Corps, including requiring all grantees to re-compete for funding; closes low performing centers; and amends the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to increase the focus on delivery of basic literacy and math skills as well as support individuals with disabilities transitioning into employment.
According to the Education and Workforce Committee, approximately 12 million Americans are unemployed and searching for work. At the same time, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there are millions of job openings that remain unfilled. Despite billions of taxpayer dollars being spent each year in federal job training programs, employers continue to struggle to find workers with the skills necessary to fill in demand jobs. Moreover, an unwieldy workforce training system is making it more difficult for workers to access critical job skills. H.R. 803 seeks to provide American workers with a more dynamic flexible and effective network of job training services.
A similar bill was reported out of the Education and Workforce Committee last June. For more information, see H.R. 4297.
Key Policy Points
According to CBO, “enacting the bill would affect direct spending, but those costs are already assumed to continue in CBO’s baseline; therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures do not apply.” CBO goes on to state that “implementing the bill would affect discretionary spending. Assuming appropriations of authorized amounts, CBO estimates that implementing H.R. 803 would cost $26 billion over the 2014-2018 period.” For more information, see CBO’s cost estimate on H.R. 803.