WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate on Wednesday reauthorized the nation’s main jobs-training bill, updating the Clinton-era legislation to help Americans — particularly disadvantaged youth and laid-off workers — prepare for an increasingly-skilled labor market.
The six-year reauthorization of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) passed by a 95-3 vote.
The legislation expired in 2003 and Congress has been funding the various training programs through annual appropriations.
The measure now heads for expected passage in the House. It then will go to President Obama, whose administration before the vote Wednesday lauded the bipartisan compromise and called for the bill’s swift passage.
The approval is a triumph for Sen. Patty Murray. The Washington Democrat was one of half dozen principle bipartisan architects of the bill, which melded clashing proposals passed separately by House Republicans and a Senate committee. Murray worked especially closely with Sen. Johnny Isakson, Republican of Georgia.
On the Senate floor, Murray said the updated law will enable Americans to fill the “high-tech jobs of the next century.”
The act would steadily increase spending on training programs to about $10 billion in 2020. It also would shift the funding formula for youth program so that 75 percent of the money is earmarked for teens and young adults who are not in school or employed.
The act for the first time would allow local workforce agencies and nonprofits to spend a portion of their grants for employed workers who may be in danger of being laid off. It also imposes new benchmarks to ensure that more workers who go through training programs emerge with certifications they could use to land jobs.
Currently, agencies primarily track job placements, retention rates and average wages without really measuring the level of skills that trainees attain.