Today President Obama signed the first job training reform in decades. Passed by congress on July 9, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act will streamline the federal workforce training system, trimming 15 programs that don’t work, giving schools the opportunity to cater their services to the needs of their region, and empowering businesses to identify what skills workers need for success and help workers acquire them.

The unusual sign of bipartisanship is a response to a projection that by 2022, 11 million workers will lack the education necessary to succeed in a 21st century workplace including bachelor’s degrees, associate’s degrees, and vocational certificates.

Obama thanked Democrats and Republicans alike for the rare moment of bipartisanship, joking “I am also inviting you back, let’s do this more often, it’s so much fun.”

The bill seeks a streamlined workforce development system by:

  • Eliminating 15 existing programs.
  • Applying a single set of outcome metrics to every federal workforce program under the Act.
  • Creating smaller, nimbler, and more strategic state and local workforce development boards.
  • Integrating intake, case management and reporting systems while strengthening evaluations.
  • Eliminating the “sequence of services” and allowing local areas to better meet the unique needs of individuals.

“Workforce training is critically important to help grow the American economy still recovering from recession and bridge the widening skills gap separating thousands of unemployed workers from promising careers in 21st century workplaces,” said Senator Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) when the bill passed.

The president also announced new federal and private sector actions to address the need for an improved job training system, which currently serves about 21 million Americans including veterans, Americans with disabilities, the unemployed, and those who lack skills to climb the career ladder.

Five promising things about this bill include:

  1. Consolidation of existing programs and alignment of workforce development program;
  2. Empowering local boards to tailor services;
  3. Focus on internships and on-the-job training;
  4. Encouragement for states to develop a single, comprehensive state plan; and
  5. A focus on disconnected youth

What’s not clear is to what extent the bill updates the lumbering Job Corps program which is bad need of a blended learning makeover.  It is, however, nice to a little sign on bipartisanship on an important issue like jobs.

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