Commission says workforce act could limit representation
by Mark Andrews
Apr 14, 2012 | 1464 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Sarah Harrison, a workforce representative for the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission, spoke to Georgia Highlands College Continuing Education Advisory Council Friday regarding the Workforce Investment Improvement Act of 2012 and some concerns surrounding the act.

The federal act, which is facing ongoing changes and will undergo a legislative hearing on Tuesday, aims "To reform and strengthen the workforce investment system of the nation to put Americans back to work and make the United States more competitive in the 21st Century," according to the Republican-sponsored House of Representatives Bill 4279, the specific name for the resolution.

"One of the first proposals that's being discussed is to reduce [local Workforce Investment Boards] from 20 to 12," Harrison said to the council, which includes educators, industry leaders and community members.

The WIB boards, composed of business, labor, education and elected officials, aim to bring together the various areas in the public and private sectors to meet the needs of the state's workforce and employers, according to the Georgia Department of Labor,

"People don't understand the importance of a WIB, I didn't when I wasn't in workforce development, but that's the group that decides how to spend your area's money," Harrison said. "That's the group that decides what training will be provided, what youth services will be implemented and adult worker and dislocated worker funds will be allocated, so it's different in every region because the needs are different in every region."

Harrison said current law requires 51 percent of the local WIB to be represented by private industry.

"One of the changes [proposed] at the federal level is to change that to two-thirds of the local WIB will be employers and that way there will be more input into employers needs, training and that sort of thing. The reality is these employers are so busy ...," Harrison said.

She also addressed a shift in state agencies beginning June 1. This shift is outside the proposals in H.R. 4279.

"The big [concern] on the state level is the shift in [Workforce Investment Act administration] from the [GDOL] to the Governor's Office of Workforce Development," Harrison said. "The GOWFD was established in 2010, so it's only been around a couple of years, and that was the organization that [initiated] the [Georgia Work Ready program]."

This means workforce development funding will go through the GOWFD instead of the GDOL.

She said the proposed federal changes to workforce development are what will shape Georgia's decisions regarding the issue.

"We know [changes] are coming, I think our state has been very proactive in trying to be aligned with what's happening, regardless of what passes," Harrison said. "... The entire [WIA] legislation will change, even the name of it."

According to a bill summary provided by the federal Education & The Workforce Committee, the federal government currently administers about 47 job training and employment programs across nine federal agencies. The summary says, "most programs overlap and serve the same populations and only five of these initiatives have been evaluated for effectiveness."

Harrison said of the 47 programs, 26 specifically are job training programs.

The summary says, regarding H.R. 4279, "[The Workforce Investment Improvement Act] consolidates redundant federal job training programs, reduces administrative costs at the state and local level, expands the role of employers, ensures workers receive training for jobs that are in demand, and increases accountability."

The bill also would establish a single Workforce Investment Fund, that, according to the bill summary, would give "state and local leaders the flexibility and decision-making power to direct more funds towards in-demand occupations in their areas."

For updates on the legislation, read The Daily Tribune News.