How the Government Will Support In-Demand Jobs Through the WIOA Act



Obama and Biden not only embrace technology, they plan to invest in high-tech training. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

With nearly one-third of Americans now holding bachelor’s degrees, the level of college completion in this country is at an all-time high. Yet, according to the federal government, by 2022 the United States will fall short by 11 million the necessary number of workers with postsecondary education, whether bachelor’s degrees, associate’s degrees, or vocational certificates. More importantly, we could face a gap between the skills learned in the classroom, and those needed to do in-demand jobs.

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It’s an issue that’s important to the Obama Administration. “Now more than ever, effective education and workforce development opportunities are critical to a stronger middle class,” the President said in his State of the Union address in January. “We need a system that prepares workers for the 21st century workforce, while helping businesses find the skilled employees they need to compete and create jobs in America.”

Enter the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

In June, President Obama backed up his words by signing into law the first job-training reform legislation in decades, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). The bipartisan legislation, which will go into effect beginning in July 2015, is all about investing in America’s competitiveness by encouraging and subsidizing education and training in the skills that are now and will continue to be in demand for decades to come.

In the meantime, the President has tasked Vice President Joe Biden, working alongside the Secretaries of Labor and Education as well as the National Economic Council, the Domestic Policy Council, the Council of Economic Advisers, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and the Office of Management and Budget, to create an action plan for reforming federally subsidized training programs. The goal is making them more job-driven, integrated, and effective.

“That means more on-the-job training, and more apprenticeships that set a young worker on an upward trajectory for life,” according to Biden’s report, Ready to Work: Job-Driven Training and American Opportunity. “It means connecting companies to community colleges that can help design training to fill their specific needs. And if Congress wants to help, [it] can concentrate funding on proven programs that connect more ready-to-work Americans with ready-to-be-filled jobs.”

What will the WIOA do?

Although the specifics are still being outlined, WIOA promises an integrated workforce development system focusing on local job-driving programs that are regularly measured according to employment results. With federal funding, states will be able to flexibly address specific regional workforce needs. This means supporting customized and on-the-job training, pay-for-performance contracts, and sector pathway strategies, making sure the program is in line with the needs of economic development and local employers.

There will be a special focus on helping Americans with disabilities find training for jobs. Individuals with disabilities currently have the highest rate of unemployment of any group, and more than two-thirds do not participate in the workforce at all, according to the White House.

How WIOA could be a boon for new business

Biden’s report mentions incredible opportunities in high-growth industries like information technology, as well as advanced manufacturing and health care. “Many dynamic companies in these sectors aren’t just expanding their workforces. They are creating jobs that pay middle-class wages,” Biden’s report states. “Going forward, our Administration will work with leaders in these industries to promote partnerships between education and workforce institutions in order to create training programs that help Americans succeed in these growing fields.”

Enacting the WIOA could mean more funding for adult learning programs through institutions like General Assembly, which focus on training for in-demand technology jobs like web development, marketing, and design. Whether you are interested in one of these as a career or need workers with these skills, there is little doubt that these are the types of jobs that will encourage innovation and fuel startups.

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