America Forward: Senate Easily Passes Workforce Development Act

The below blog post is from Deborah Smolover and the team at America Forward, a nonpartisan policy initiative of New Profit.


Today, the U.S. Senate passed the bipartisan Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) to reauthorize the $3 billion Workforce Investment Act (WIA), the nation’s principal workforce development law that funds state and local workforce initiatives and provides a comprehensive menu of job training services for youth and adults, by a vote of 95 to 3.

Passed in 1998, the current law is outdated and unable to support the workforce, education, and training needs of job seekers and employers of today’s economy. According to the National Skills Coalition, “the outdated law has also made workforce programs vulnerable to funding cuts – funding for workforce programs has declined by 30 percent since 2001, and has been cut by more than $1 billion since just 2010.” Today’s Senate passage of the WIOA marks an important step in the process to reverse this trend and improve our nation’s workforce development system to better prepare workers for today’s workforce.

In the past year, America Forward has worked closely with Members of Congress and their Staff charged with updating WIA to ensure the innovative ideas of our Coalition members are reflected in updated legislation.

America Forward and the America Forward Coalition worked closely with Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Michael Bennet (D-OH) and Representative Susan Brooks (R-IN) on the Pay for Success language included in WIOA and referred to as “pay-for-performance” in the bill. The language included in this bill is a reflection of our previous efforts with these champions on the CAREER Act and the SKILLS Act that would incentivize pay for performance contracts and arrangements by allowing local workforce boards to reserve up to 10 percent of their funding toward these efforts.

America Forward and the America Forward Coalition also worked closely with key Senate and House WIA Committee Leaders to see the inclusion of WIOA bill provisions that would:

    • Prioritize and support career pathways strategies to build stronger connections between job training programs and local employer needs.

    • Support the development of alternative, evidence-based programs that encourage youth to re-enter and complete secondary school; enroll in postsecondary education and advanced training, progress through a career pathway.

    • Promote better coordination by aligning workforce development programs with economic development and education initiatives.

    • Ensure individuals with disabilities are eligible for training and support.

    • Continue support for the U.S. Department of Labor’s YouthBuild program to engage low-income opportunity youth in a comprehensive full-time education, job training, and community service program.

Today’s Senate vote marks an important step in updating our nation’s workforce system for the 21st century. The bill will now be sent to the House of Representatives for passage. The House is expected to consider the bill after the July 4th Congressional recess.

For more information on the WIOA, please click here for a statement of the bill’s managers, including a section-by-section summary of the bill. For a summary of key improvements the bill makes to current law and current workforce development programs, please click here.

For more on America Forward, please visit

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