Local elected officials, business leaders and workforce investment boards recently shared their concerns over provisions in H.R. 803, the SKILLS “Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills” Act currently being debated in Congress. The National Association of Counties (NACo) collaborated with the United States Conference of Mayors (USCM), the National Association of Counties (NACo), the National League of Cities (NLC) and the National Association of Workforce Boards (NAWB) sending a joint letter to House Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer. The SKILLS Act is a re-authorization of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998.
The Workforce Investment Act created funding streams for states and localities to use in workforce development. As described by Maryland’s Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation,
The purpose of the Workforce Investment Act is to provide workforce development services, through statewide and local workforce investment systems, that increase the employment, retention, and earnings of participants, and increase occupational skill attainment by participants, and, as a result, improve the quality of the workforce, reduce welfare dependency, and enhance the productivity and competitiveness of the State of Maryland and the Nation. . . The Division of Workforce Development, using a formula based on the population mix in each locality, allocates the WIA funds to Workforce Investment Areas (WIAs) throughout the State.
The letter offers amendments to the Act that would promote intergovernmental collaboration between state and local officials by eliminating prior provisions relating to automatic designation of local workforce development areas, effectively allowing state boards to designate local areas in consultation with the governor, without considering input from local stakeholders. As written,
Local workforce development areas are best suited to adequately determine services and programs that effectively respond to local emerging economic realities and business needs, given the vast economic, social and political differences that may exist within states. As such, WIA envisioned a strong role for local stakeholders in the administration of workforce development activities, and we are deeply concerned that H.R. 803 dilutes that role. As drafted, H.R. 803 undermines existing governance structures by virtually eliminating the input of local elected officials in the decision-making process.
For more information, see the letter, or additional coverage from the National Association of Counties. For information on current Workforce Investment Act funding in Maryland, reference the Department of Labor Licensing and Regulation.