Bennet, Portman Introduce CAREER Act

Bill Will Enhance Accountability and Ensure that Workers are Being Trained to Fill Jobs in Industries that Have Openings

U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Rob Portman (R-OH) today introduced the Careers Through Responsive, Efficient, and Effective Retraining (CAREER) Act to make federal job training programs more responsive to the needs of the 21st-century job market.

Federal job training programs can be a valuable tool to help job seekers acquire skills to re-enter the job market.  By working in coordination with the local workforce boards and workforce development councils that administer these services, this bill will help these programs better serve employers and workers alike.

“As our economy continues to recover from the worst recession since the Great Depression we need to fine tune and improve the tools that can get people working,” Bennet said.  “The CAREER Act is a bipartisan approach, representing feedback from workers and stakeholders in Colorado and across the nation, that will make federal job training programs more efficient, effective and aligned to the needs of today’s global job market.  These are commonsense improvements that will help get people back to work and put federal tax dollars to better use.”

“With unemployment looming dangerously above 8 percent for months in a row, Washington should be doing everything it can to create an environment conducive to job growth.  Unfortunately, the federal government’s many job training programs are failing to equip participants with the skills they need to acquire jobs,” Portman said.  “We need responsive job training that closely coordinates with employers to prepare workers to compete in a global economy.  We worked side-by-side with Ohio’s community colleges, employers, and students to come up with ways to improve our job training programs, and our bill takes several commonsense, bipartisan steps to address inefficiency in the current system, furnish participants with the skills needed by employers, and incentivize better performance among training providers.  These measures will help connect the unemployed with good jobs and more effectively leverage taxpayer dollars.”

Corporate Voices for Working Families (CVWF), a nonprofit, nonpartisan national business membership organization influential in public and corporate policy issues involving working families, has endorsed this bipartisan bill.  “Given the success our partner companies have had with career pathway programs, we know it is possible for workforce training programs to produce strong outcomes that meet employer needs,” said John Wilcox, Executive Director of CVWF.  “The Pay for Performance Pilot Program is important because it will encourage more publicly funded workforce training programs to have a laser focus on achieving desired and measurable outcomes.”

In addition, Deborah S. Smolover, Executive Director of America Forward, a coalition of over 40 nonprofit organizations founded to bring together the public and private sector to solve social problems, has voiced support for the legislation, saying, “America Forward and our Coalition members have long advocated for public investments to be driven by data demonstrating successful outcomes and we support Pay for Performance strategies…Your legislation would sponsor an important ‘next step’ in demonstrating that Pay for Performance approaches will produce such results in workforce and other public investments.”

recent manufacturing study and a White House report released in July found that 74 percent of manufacturers are experiencing workforce shortages or skills deficiencies that are having a significant negative impact on their ability to expand operations and improve productivity.  In addition, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports that while federal job training programs are important tools for helping job seekers obtain employment, there is overlap in the current workforce system and not enough is known about the effectiveness of most job training programs.  We can, on a bipartisan basis, improve the efficiency and effectiveness of federal job training, without decreasing services or accessibility to services, including for the workers who need these programs the most.

Reform is needed to better leverage the taxpayer dollars spent on federal job training.  By steering training dollars to programs that equip workers with skills that are in-demand by industry, implementing an innovative pay-for-performance model, and requiring the President to submit to Congress a plan for a more integrated and streamlined job training system, the CAREER Act will make federal job training more responsive to the needs of employers, more efficient with taxpayer dollars, and more effective in connecting the unemployed with good-paying jobs.

The CAREER Act will establish incentives for accountability by establishing a pilot program that implements a pay-for-performance model for the delivery of job training programs in at least five states that voluntarily opt-in.  If job training providers in these participating states are unable to deliver results in a measurable, data-based manner, the provider will not be reimbursed in full.  This introduces much needed accountability into the process and will more effectively leverage taxpayer investment in job training.

In addition, the CAREER Act delivers on a recommendation of the President’s Jobs Council to “align the training needs of workers and skills demanded by employers with education and workforce training programs” by steering federal retraining dollars to programs that train workers with skills in-demand by industries in the state and local workforce areas.

The bill also takes an important step toward streamlining the federal job training system.  Within 12 months of the bill’s enactment, the Administration will be required to report a plan to Congress to increase efficiency among the federal training programs by decreasing the number of federal job training programs without decreasing services or accessibility to services by eligible training providers, including for individuals with barriers to employment. 

Finally, the CAREER Act will provide state workforce agencies free-of-charge access to better, real-time hiring data via the National Directory of New Hires database.  This will allow them to better determine the effectiveness of job training programs.