On Friday March 15 the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 803 – The Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills (SKILLS) Act reauthorizing the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 by a vote of 215-202.
The bill proposes the consolidation of 35 programs used in support of job training into a single Workforce Investment Fund, places a premium on job education and training as the means to provide greater access to the workforce, and revises the responsibilities of the state and local Workforce Investment Boards and eliminates the mandatory inclusion on the WIBs of community colleges representation, labor representation, and others – replacing these individuals with a required 2/3 majority of the new boards to be comprised of business and industry representation.
Just prior to the vote on final passage the House debated and voted to approve several amendments; the "Manager's Amendment" included technical changes as well as two substantive changes adding an application process for local or regional boards to be designated as a local workforce investment area and authorization of the GAO to complete two studies on the effectiveness of savings related to the changes contained within the bill.
In addition to the adoption of this Manager's Amendment, the House also approved by voice vote several amendments, they included:
- Representative Pete Gallego's amendment to ensure that advance manufacturing is included in the list of objectives of state and local plans to support the ability of veterans to pursue job opportunities in this occupation;
- Representatives Don Young, Tom Cole, and Kristi Noem's amendment to ensure that each states Workforce Investment Fund will guarantee that 1% of the fund will be used to promote the needs of American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian employment and training grants;
- Representative Diane Black's amendment expressing a sense of Congress that any administrative costs to federal, state, or local entities as a result of this act be off-set by funds currently being used for marketing and outreach at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA); and
- Representative Scott Garrett's amendment requiring that if reports due to Congress that evaluate the programs that are covered in the SKILLS Act are not transmitted on or before the time period specified for that report, amounts authorized to be appropriated under this title shall be reduced by 10 percent for the next fiscal year and reduced by an additional 10 percent for each subsequent fiscal year until such report is transmitted to Congress.
The SKILLS Act, as amended, will now be sent to the Senate and the Senate HELP Committee for further consideration. It is highly unlikely that the Senate will support the SKILLS Act, which the President has already stated his opposition to. Instead, it is anticipated that the Senate will seek to approve a more modest revision of WIA, likely without the program consolidations and significant changes to the existing WIB structure and process, setting the stage for a Conference between the House and Senate on two very different proposals.