Starting on WIOA reauthorization

House Education and Labor Committee Chair Bobby Scott (D-Virginia) and Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-North Carolina) at a hearing on apprenticeships last September. (Photo courtesy of the House Education and Labor Committee)

House Education and Labor Committee leaders this week discussed reauthorizing the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).

Committee Chair Bobby Scott (D-Virginia) and Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-North Carolina) said in a statement that they have started a bipartisan effort to rework WIOA, which is the nation’s main federal workforce development legislation. The meeting on Wednesday focused on the challenges caused by the pandemic and how to strengthen WIOA.

“America’s workforce development programs are critical to ensuring a strong recovery for workers, employers, and our economy,” the statement said. “Committee Democrats and Republicans are working together to advance a bipartisan reauthorization of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act that offers workers the opportunity to gain in-demand skills and provides employers the talent they need to succeed and grow. We look forward to holding a series of public hearings to advance this important work and continue the tradition of bipartisan support for workforce development programs.”

Meanwhile, upon the request of the Senate education and labor committee, the American Association of Community Colleges and the Association of Community College Trustees are drafting a letter to the committee outlining the associations’ workforce development priorities, including upgrades to WIOA.

Earlier this week, AACC President and CEO Walter Bumphus testified before the House education appropriations subcommittee on top-line issues for the nation’s community colleges. In his written testimony, Bumphus said “WIOA’s potential impact has been inhibited by deeply inadequate funding,” though the president’s proposal to increase WIOA’s funding in his budget outline for fiscal year 2022 “is a positive first step.”

Bumphus added that he anticipates the upcoming WIOA reauthorization will “facilitate deeper community college participation, hopefully with a stronger emphasis on training.”

CTE on members’ minds

On Thursday, the House committee held a remote hearing to hear from House members about their top issues pertaining to education and labor. Only two lawmakers testified, but both observed the importance of career and technical education (CTE) in K-12 and postsecondary education. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pennsylvania) noted that includes apprenticeships, which comprise the “backbone of vocational education programs” in her region.

“As we work to rebuild our economy, it is essential to connect workers with opportunities that will give them access to the critical skills and high-paying jobs they need to support themselves and their families,” she said.

Rep. James Langevin (D-Rhode Island) also supposed CTE programs.

“My first priority, as the co-chair of the Career and Technical Education Caucus, is that we continue to fund and strengthen CTE and similar workforce development programs,” he said. “CTE programs have been proven to launch students into rewarding careers and fill workforce gaps. Classes in cybersecurity, coding, graphic design and robotics make CTE the workforce pipeline of the future.”

Committee member Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-New York) lamented how there are fewer CTE options for K-12 students.

“Way back in the day, they [CTE programs] used to be pretty abundant in New York. And then we shifted to this college-or-else perspective in our K-12 schools,” he said.

The committee has scheduled a hearing on April 28 to consider investments to improve schools, create jobs and strengthen families and the economy. It has not yet announced the testifying witnesses.

About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
is editor of Community College Daily and serves as publications director for the American Association of Community Colleges.