Congress has Opportunity to Support Retail Workforce Growth

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) was reauthorized in 2014 to streamline the complicated array of federal workforce development programs and define a single set of performance metrics. However, WIOA currently fails to equip people with the right skills and ultimately place them into jobs. Retailers who have shown an effort to help employees reach their potential through reskilling and upskilling have been forced to do so without support. Those providing employer-led training programs on the job are not eligible to become certified training providers. With eligibility requirements that are difficult to meet and varied across states, employers with proven job placement and incumbent worker training success are disincentivized from investing in a modern workforce. It is a missed opportunity to not leverage preexisting government frameworks to support such goals.

For this reason, Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA) of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce introduced H.R. 6655, “A Stronger Workforce for America Act.” The bipartisan legislation aims to integrate more pathways to learning, including on-the-job training and other employer-led and industry relevant initiatives, and raises the state spending cap on incumbent worker training, allowing local workforce boards to help the currently employed workforce with upskilling and career advancement. H.R. 6655 clarifies the eligible training provider criteria so that newer programs can achieve eligibility under a performance-funding model and employers can “sponsor” a program as a signal of high quality and industry relevance. It also strengthens and implements a performance accountability program to reward the state and local workforce boards for achieving positive labor market outcomes. Ultimately, “A Stronger Workforce for America Act” would better equip retailers to offer opportunities to their current and future employees.

Chair Foxx and Ranking Member Scott received input from many stakeholders, including the Skills First Coalition, which is comprised of employers and innovative education providers. As a member of the coalition, RILA helped drive communication with the committee staff in sending a letter outlining key priorities for WIOA reauthorization. After extensive outreach to affected stakeholders and robust internal debate, the committee nearly unanimously advanced the legislation. In her opening statement, Chair Foxx said this bill “will broaden the precarious education tightrope to a true pipeline in which many paths can lead to a rewarding career,” and remarked how the bipartisan work on this legislation has made it stronger. Mr. Scott added, “It creates an emphasis on employer-led initiatives that equip workers with the skillsets they need to fill jobs in critical industries and help the currently employed workforce upskill to avoid displacement and advance their careers.”

The Skills First Coalition, as well as RILA, applaud this bipartisan first step toward the reauthorization of WIOA and support the passage of this legislation. To see RILA’s letter of support for H.R. 6655, click here. The Senate has not developed a similar proposal yet, but RILA will continue to follow the progress of ongoing efforts to reauthorize WIOA and ensure the retail industry’s perspective is represented on this issue.
To learn more about retailers’ efforts to create new opportunities and build a 21st century workforce that works for everyone, visit here.
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