The House Committee on Education and the Workforce introduced a new bill they say makes critical improvements to the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). Chair Virginia Foxx (R-North Carolina) and Ranking Member Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-Virginia) introduced H.R. 6655, “A Stronger Workforce for America Act,” noting the bipartisan bill will expand skills development and strengthen the relationship between employers and the workforce system.
The bill authorizes the newly named Strengthening Community College Workforce Development Grants (SCCWD) program, formerly known as Strengthening Community College Training Grants (SCCTG). The name change is a nod to Foxx’s well-known dislike of the word “training” when it is used in reference to workforce education. SCCTG has been funded for four years as an unauthorized program and is currently funded at $65 million. The new bill would maintain that level of funding.
As introduced, the new bill codifies the SCCWD grant program “to improve and expand high-quality workforce development programs at community colleges.” Community colleges applying for these grants will have to establish an industry partnership with one or more employers in in-demand industries in their region and priority will be given to applicants that will serve individuals with “barriers to employment or incumbent workers in need of foundational skills, will use competency-based assessments to award credit for prior learning, or will seek to get programs supported by the grant on the state’s eligible training provider list.”
Reporting on performance will be required for each grantee leaving the Department of Labor to determine metrics to measure the extent to which the grantee improves institutional capacity to offer workforce programs and the completion and career advancement of participants, which a grantee must meet to be eligible for subsequent grants. Labor will also be required to evaluate the effectiveness of the grants, including the extent to which they developed or expanded industry sector strategies or career pathways.
Reporting will still be required for all students in a program that is on the WIOA eligible training provider list but if the bipartisan workforce Pell bill is enacted, all of those programs will automatically added to the list.
A Quick take
In a quick analysis of the bill language, we are pleased that the funding for the SCCWD grants will be codified in the new WIOA bill and we will continue to advocate for funding beyond the $65 million currently outlined. In this version, more WIOA funds could be used for incumbent worker training and local areas would be required to use not less than 50% of the funds it receives to provide individuals with skills development, which includes education.
It is important to note that there is an increased emphasis on the use of real-time labor market information in developing workforce plans and strategies, and support for skills-based hiring.