It's the most influential jobs bill you've never heard of, and this summer it might be updated for the first time in 14 years.
When the Workforce Investment Act was signed by President Clinton in 1998, the idea was to consolidate what had typically been separate state offices — the unemployment office, the job-listings office, the training-services office, sometimes even the welfare office — into One-Stop Career Centers, in order to help more Americans connect with employers' needs. But Congress has ignored the law since it went into effect in 2000, and lawmakers and advocates say it badly needs a face-lift. Its focus on short-term training and rapid reemployment for laid-off workers is outdated, according to the National Skills Coalition, a job-training advocacy group.
The act grew out of a debate in the mid-1990s. After Clinton signed the welfare-reform law that for the first time linked welfare benefits to jobs and training, policymakers turned a critical eye toward existing government training programs and found them disconnected from the job market. The Workforce Investment Act sought to get businesses more involved in the system. It also imposed reporting requirements on the One-Stop Career Centers, mandating that they track employment outcomes for the people they served — but not whether those receiving job training were also taking college classes or pursuing a certificate, for example. Thus, it prioritized immediate employment over investments in long-term job-readiness.