Congress reauthorized federal workforce programs funded under the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) through the passage of the 2014 Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). As with WIA, WIOA allocates federal funds to states, which then push these funds into their local workforce through state “one-stop” workforce centers. WIOA funds enable unemployed individuals to receive training in “in-demand” careers.
Over the years, WIA/WIOA grants have allowed thousands of individuals to attend truck driver training schools and begin their careers as commercial drivers. Under WIOA, the “in-demand” occupation requirement requires state and local workforce boards to determine occupations that are in high demand based on local, state, or regional jobs data. In other words, under WIOA, grants will be awarded to pay for training programs only if state and local workforce boards have already determined that the applicant’s target industry has adequate job openings in that state or locality.
CVTA believes lawmakers need to fully fund WIOA programs. WIOA remains a major source of funding to get individuals into trucking. Without robust funding, CVTA fears that less individuals will look to commercial trucking as a career option, thereby exacerbating the driver shortage. Additionally, CVTA is concerned about instances in states where driver training programs are not being classified as “in-demand” occupations. Specifically, CVTA knows of several workforce boards who have chosen not to list trucking as an “in-demand” occupation because it is based solely on local data, despite the national impact of the ongoing driver shortage.
Thus, drivers in these states are denied WIOA grants to attend training because commercial vehicle driving jobs are not “in-demand” when, in fact, plenty of national trucking companies are anxious to hire them. Although WIOA allows state workforce boards to choose which data they will use when determining jobs that are “in-demand”, CVTA fears that too much reliance on state and local data at the expense of national data may unintentionally discriminate against non-domiciled companies.
Furthermore, WIOA program metrics may need to be adjusted to capture those residents who are employed by out of state companies but remain a resident of their state. Otherwise, trucking companies will unduly be punished because they hire in numerous places but may not be headquartered in these states.
To ensure that qualified job seekers in each state have access to driver training programs, it is imperative that all governors and workforce boards understand the current driver shortage and recognize that many trucking companies will hire from any state in the U.S.
Therefore, CVTA urges members of Congress to (1) fully fund WIOA appropriations at authorized levels and (2) be prepared to act – through letters, appropriations, or additional legislation – should this be necessary to ensure that commercial driver training is recognized as an “in-demand” occupation.