On September 30th, through a torrential downpour in our nation's
capital, members of ASTD went up to Capitol Hill to advocate for
effective training and development legislation. A group of chapter
leaders and members of the Public Policy Council met with 18
members of Congress (mostly staff) to discussion several issues
important to the T&D community.
Members were given tools they needed to set up their appointment
through a series of webinars, and they had the information they
needed to prepare themselves for their meetings. We also had an
onsite orientation at the conference on the morning of the event.
Our discussions for our meetings were first centered on the
Workforce Investment Act (WIA) reauthorization. WIA currently
appears to be stalled; and, unfortunately, another Congressional
session will pass without this legislation being worked on or
The second discussion was a permanent extension of Section 127 of
the IRS tax code for educational tax credits. This provision of
the tax code had been extended for 10 years and is up for renewal. Currently there are two bills (one in the House and one in the
Senate) to make this a permanent part of the tax code.
After our meetings, we went back to the conference hotel to debrief
the experience and discuss next steps in moving forward in these
areas. We also discussed chapter involvement in policy issues.
For those of you talking to candidates this election season, here
are the talking points on these two issues the group used that day.
Reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA):
As Congress considers a WIA reauthorization bill in the future,
ASTD would like to suggest four areas of focus for consideration:
1. Workforce readiness assessment. To ensure that the
workforce has the skills necessary for success, and companies are
able to hire employees with the skills that meet their needs, we
encourage the implementation of a skills assessment tool or process
to help the workforce investment system collect consistent metrics
about the skills needed by employers before public funds for
training are invested.
2. Flexibility with technology-based training. Since WIA was
enacted in 1998, organizations have tripled their use of technology
to deliver training to employees. With the increase of Millennial
in the workforce-a generation that has grown up using technology-we
encourage the workforce investment system to adapt programs to meet
the needs of all generations of workers and consider a more
flexible approach to online programs and courses.
3. Skills development for those working in the WIA system. To
ensure that individuals are able to access cost-effective and
appropriate training opportunities; employers can find skilled and
ready-to-work employees; and the publicly-funded workforce system
manages its budget judiciously, it's important that staff within
the public workforce system understand the fundamentals of adult
learning. By having a general competence in workforce training
(based on industry standards), they will be able to more
effectively assess training providers and the training needs of the
4. Measuring the performance of training. In addition to the
performance metrics currently used to measure the success of
programs funded through the workforce investment system, ASTD
recommends that the workforce investment system measure the
effectiveness of the training: did this course or program increase
workers' knowledge and skills and can they demonstrate what they
know and can do? This recommendation has a direct link to the need
to assess workforce readiness.
Extension of Section 127 of the IRS Code - Employee Educational
Section 127 of the Internal Revenue Code enables an employee to
exclude from income up to $5,250 per year in employer-provided
tuition assistance for any type of educational course at the
undergraduate and graduate level. Section 127 benefits are
currently set to expire at the end of 2010. This section of the IRS
Code was originally established in 1978 as a five-year provision to
give officials time to study it. It has been extended eight times
since then, most recently in 2001 for ten years. Absent
congressional action to renew it or make it permanent, Section 127
will expire at the end of 2010.
ASTD is involved in The Coalition to Preserve Employer Provided
Education Assistance, a group of organizations advocating on behalf
of extending Section 127.
Why Renew Section 127?
• It provides tax-free educational
assistance, which is an important tool employers use to attract
talent to their organizations and to build a skilled workforce.
• Nearly 1 million employees took
advantage of Section 127 benefits in 2007, according to the
National Postsecondary Student Aid Study's recent data on
characteristics of students in postsecondary education.
• Section 127 plays a critical role in
promoting the competitiveness of our organizations. In 2007, almost
half of Section 127 beneficiaries were graduate students, and 45
percent of Section 127 recipients majored in business, science,
technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
• Repeatedly extending Section 127
rather than making it permanent cause's uncertainty for employees
who are not sure they can rely on the benefit, and also for
employers when they are not able to anticipate changes that could
impact their training programs and benefits offered to employees.