As many of you know, the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) is the largest and most significant piece of training legislation which has been due to be reauthorized for the past 3 Congresses; and, for mostly political reasons, it has not been reauthorized. When the Bush Administration had both the House and Senate in control with the Republicans, the Democrats stalled any legislation. In 2006, when Democrats won the House back, they felt that what they really wanted in the bill would be possible with further control of the Senate and the White House in 2008. Well, you know how the election turned out. They then had control of all three and hopes that something (anything) would happen for WIA in 2009.

As Congress currently contemplates and debates what health care reform may look like, those of us in the training and development world continue to focus our efforts on WIA. As I have mentioned in earlier blog posts last year, we noticed signs of a new bill in both the House and Senate. Both chambers had hearings in 2009 on the topic, inviting guest panelists from the workforce system and administration leaders to give their thoughts and ideas on what a new bill would look like.

Even earlier last month, Secretary of Labor Solis testified in Congress that her department was ready to work with her team and both the House and Senate on this issue. And even in this past week, more hearings and meeting on WIA. Last week the Senate HELP subcommittee working on WIA reauthorization had a hearing on this subject. Though it was a good hearing with good questions, it appears that employers, for the most part, were again out in the cold on the invitation list of witnesses. It appears that those who represent "union interest" are still the most often requested speakers to Congressional committees. This is not surprising since the Democrats are holding chairman seats of both the House and Senate committees and subcommittees leading this issue.

We have had follow up meetings with the Republican staffers on the House side who have put forward their own reauthorization bill, HR 4271. In discussions with them, we agree on many of the issues addressed and with their goal of strengthen the current bill. We would like to keep an employer majority on state and local workforce boards, and this bill does. We would like to ensure that services offered in the One Stop Centers are focused on the needs of employers. We would also like to see the use of online learning in delivery of training services enhanced, and the bill does address and support it.

We are hoping to meet with the staffers on the Democratic side of the House to see what different things they would like to introduce in the bill and to see what the timing is to move forward. Currently we are hearing that the House Education and Labor Committee will be taking up No Child Left Behind reauthorization after health care, so it may be summer when we hear something about WIA.

If you are in a Congressional district of a member on the House Education and Labor Committee, you should reach out and talk to them about WIA and why it should be reauthorized. If you're a Chapter Leader, you will be able to come to DC in October and join us as we go back to Capitol Hill to "converse" with Congress again! Stay tuned to this blog for more information as it becomes available.