The bipartisan bill updates the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, which covers dozens of job training programs. That bill expired in 2003 and had not been updated in over 15 years, part of the reason for today’s skills gap in manufacturing. The bill’s provision, among others, directs governors to create State Workforce Development Boards, a majority of whom must represent businesses in the state; prioritizes the use of industry-recognized standards and credentials; eliminates outdated programs; provides accountability and data reporting requirements; and, increases the ability to use on-the-job training (reimbursement rates up to 75%) and incumbent worker training (may use up to 20% of local funds).
The skills gap has caused many manufacturers to have serious shortages of qualified potential employees in their labor force. According to a recent survey, nearly 75% of members in both NTMA and PMA have job openings in manufacturing plants, and 80% report that they are having challenges recruiting qualified employees.
NTMA and PMA have been leaders in pressing Congress to reform the outdated federal workforce system and strongly supported WIOA.
“As the U.S. manufacturing industry continues to expand, the need to hire more skilled workers will continue to grow, especially with millions of older manufacturing workers expected to retire in the coming years. This bill is a step in the right direction for closing the skills gap,” said NTMA President Dave Tilstone.
“This legislation is important to our members and the manufacturing industry as a whole,” said PMA President Bill Gaskin. “The strong bipartisan support that the bill received reflects the recognition by both parties of the importance of supporting the manufacturing sector as it continues its comeback and growth.”
The legislation, supported by industry, workforce training institutions, and state officials from both political parties, now heads to the U.S. House of Representatives for a vote.