Workforce training bill heads to Obama

The House on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed legislation that would reauthorize and streamline federal job training programs, cutting 15 regarded as redundant.

The measure, passed 415-6, is a rare, bipartisan, election-year deal negotiated by members of the House and Senate over the past several months. It now heads to the White House for President Obama's signature.

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Two weeks ago, the Senate passed the six-year bill on a 95-3 vote.

Congress last authorized the workforce law in 1998, and it has been due for renewal since 2003.

The legislation would eliminate 15 programs deemed duplicative and reduce the number of necessary members on state and local workforce boards. House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-Minn.) said it would overhaul the current federal job training system to better prepare workers.

"We have too many ineffective programs, too much bureaucracy and very little accountability," Kline said. "It's time to prepare workers for the jobs of the future, not the jobs of the past."

Members say the authorization is necessary to help close the skills gap between unemployed Americans and open jobs in the current economy.

"For America to work we need effective education and workforce development programs to strengthen the middle class. Today however, too many Americans are looking for work without the necessary skills to match job openings," said Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.). 

The measure would also require job training programs to document how many people find jobs afterward. States would also be required to establish four-year plans for workforce development.

States that do not meet performance targets for two years in a row would consequently receive less funding allocated by governors.

Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.), a GOP target this fall, applauded the measure's ability to help unemployed Americans find jobs.

"This bill is likely to be the biggest jobs bill that gets signed into law this session," Tierney said.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) praised the "jobs bill" as an example for further potential compromises with the Senate.

"This is the way the process is supposed to work. We've got 50 other jobs bills sitting over in the United States Senate. Maybe they'll begin to work on another one," Boehner said.