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The First Significant Legislative Reform of Our Job-Training System in a Number of Years:

President Obama and Vice President Biden deliver remarks before the bill signing of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.
President Barack Obama signs H.R. 803

President Barack Obama signs H.R. 803, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act after delivering remarks on job training, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building South Court Auditorium, July 22, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

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We need to make sure workers in America can find jobs that meet their skills, or get trained with the skills they need for a better job.

That's why, in this year's State of the Union address, President Obama tasked Vice President Biden with leading a review of our country's job-training programs to make sure that they have one mission: training our workers with the skills employers need, and matching them to good jobs that need to be filled right now.

The effort to make our federal training programs more job-driven was also bolstered by the bipartisan passage of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which President Obama signed into law this afternoon.

Before the signing, the Vice President presented the President with the "roadmap" he asked for in the State of the Union -- on "how to keep a maintain the highest-skilled workforce in the world." The report highlights successful job-training programs, details executive actions by the federal government, and aims to help more Americans in getting and moving up in high-demand jobs and careers.

After thanking those who helped in the production of the report, the Vice President explained the core questions of the report:

So the core question that we set out to answer -- and I’m sure my colleagues did as well -- was how do you connect?  How do you connect these workers who desperately want a job, who will do all they need to do to qualify, how do you connect them with jobs?  How do Americans know what skills employers need?  It sounds like a silly question, but how do they know?  And how do they get these skills once they know what skills are needed for the job?  And where, where do they go to get those jobs?

This report is designed to help answer those extremely practical questions.  It includes 50 actions that the federal government and our outside partners are taking now to help fill this skills gap.  There is this new strategy that we think will lead directly to more middle-class jobs.  These actions are going to help promote partnerships between educational institutions and workforce institutions.  They’re going to increase apprenticeships, which will allow folks to learn -- and earn while they learn.  And it will empower job seekers and employers with better data on what jobs are available and what skills are needed to fill those jobs. 

"To maintain our place in the world," the Vice President said, "we need to keep the world's most skilled workforce right here in America, and to give a whole lot more hardworking Americans a chance at a good, middle-class job they can raise a family on."

Following the Vice President's remarks, President Obama talked about the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act -- the first significant legislative reform of the nation's job-training system in a number of years.

"The bill I’m about to sign," he said, "will give communities more certainty to invest in job-training programs for the long run." He added that the bill will help bring those training programs into the 21st century by "building on what we know works based on evidence, and based on tracking what actually delivers" for those who enroll in the programs -- more partnerships with employers, tools to measure performance, and flexibilities for states and cities to innovate and run their training programs in ways best suited for their particular demographics and particular industries.

President Barack Obama, with Vice President Joe Biden, delivers remarks on job training before signing H.R. 803

President Barack Obama, with Vice President Joe Biden, delivers remarks on job training before signing H.R. 803, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building South Court Auditorium, July 22, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

The President noted, however, that there's still more to do, which is why he directed the Cabinet to implement some of the Vice President's recommendations from today's report:

First, we’re going to use the funds and programs we already have in a smarter way.  Federal agencies will award grants that move away from what our Secretary of Labor, Tom Perez, who has been working very hard on this, what he calls a “train and pray” approach, and I’ll bet a lot of you who have dealt with folks who are unemployed know what that means.  They enroll, they get trained for something, they’re not even sure whether the job is out there, and if the job isn’t out there, all they’re doing is saddling themselves with debt, oftentimes putting themselves in a worse position.  What we want to do is make sure where you train your workers first based on what employers are telling you they’re hiring for.  Help business design the training programs so that we’re creating a pipeline into jobs that are actually out there.  

Number two, training programs that use federal money will be required to make public how many of its graduates find jobs and how much they earn.  And that means workers, as they’re shopping around for what’s available, they’ll know in advance if they can expect a good return on their investment.  Every job seeker should have all the tools they need to take their career into their own hands, and we’re going to help make sure they can do that.

And finally, we’re going to keep investing in new strategies and innovations that help keep pace with a rapidly changing economy -- from testing new, faster ways of teaching skills like coding and cybersecurity and welding, to giving at-risk youth the chance to learn on the job, we will keep making sure that Americans have the chance to build their careers throughout a lifetime of hard work.   

Find out more about why job-training programs matter, and which programs around the country are working best.

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