Roger Jankowski| Crain’s Custom Media

Legislation recently passed in Washington holds a promise of an economic impact regionally by improving workforce training.

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act is designed to modernize and streamline existing federal workforce development programs to help workers gain the skills they need to fill the jobs Michigan businesses have to offer.

After sailing through the Senate on June 25th by a 95-3 vote, the bill next passed the House of Representatives on July 9th by a vote of 415-6. President Barack Obama then signed the legislation into law a few weeks later.

The bill is designed to both help workers attain skills for 21st century jobs as well as foster the modern workforce that evolving American businesses rely on to compete in a global economy. And it’s getting high praise from workforce leaders in our area.

“Here in Michigan, we recognized long ago that the old way of doing things — 20th century ‘workforce development’ simply wasn’t meeting the needs of our 21st century employers,” said Luann Dunsford, CEO of Michigan Works. “WIOA sends a tremendous signal that they may be starting to understand that in Washington, as well.”

Under the old system, the federal government used a scattershot approach with nearly 40 different programs approaching workforce development in nearly 40 different ways. While WIOA doesn’t go so far as to make drastic structural changes to the system, it does include provisions that will streamline programs, strengthen the emphasis on serving local employers, and increase the transparency of training providers.

Under WIOA, 15 programs are eliminated completely, a single set of outcome metrics is applied to every remaining workforce program, and the entire system is refocused to empower local communities to tailor their services to local employment needs.

Additional changes include:

• Creation of a single set of common measures across adult and youth program.

• Increased emphasis on incumbent worker training, on-the-job training, and customized training.

• Increased accountability of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act regarding the accessibility of programs and facilities with disabilities.

• Reduction of the number of required Workforce Investment board members.

Adds Dunsford, “It’s a perfect complement to the demand-driven economic development model introduced by Governor Rick Snyder and implemented by Michigan Works.”

Equally enthusiastic is Pamela Moore, President and CEO of Detroit Employment Solutions Corp., the city of Detroit’s workforce agency.

“Passage of WIOA is a big victory for job seekers and employers,” said Moore.

Speaking at a WIOA panel discussion at Macomb Community College, Moore said, “The new act builds upon the success of the prior Workforce Investment Act and promises new efficiencies and the ability to innovate in order to meet the needs of our rapidly changing world.”

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