By Neil Bomberg, Program Director
As I read through the budget proposed by House of Representatives Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), I was left wondering why House Republicans are so vigorously opposed to job training programs like the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). This program – which helps private sector employers find and train skilled workers – is being vilified as wasteful, duplicative, and welfare-like, despite substantial evidence to the contrary from researchers and the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Most confusing is the fact that these proposed cuts are coming at a time when more than 13 million Americans remain out of work and employers across America are complaining that the existing skills mismatch is preventing them from filling some 3.5 million jobs.
What does the Ryan budget mean for the nation’s Workforce Investment Act job training system?
If the Ryan budget were adopted into law, funding for federal job training programs that would help U.S. workers and employers obtain critical workforce skills would be virtually eliminated. According to the Campaign to Invest in America’s Workforce (CIAW), the “Ryan Budget” would reduce the budget line that funds labor, health and human services, and education programs by more than $16 billion (22 percent) when compared to fiscal year 2012.
Why has Chairman Ryan proposed to cut funding for Workforce Investment Act job training programs?
Chairman Ryan argues for these cuts, in part, by suggesting that federal job training programs are duplicative and ineffective. He cites a January 2011 report from the GAO as proof. But this represents a fundamental misreading of that report; in fact, while the GAO found that a number of federal programs offer similar services the report clearly stated that “even when programs overlap, the services they provide and the populations they serve may differ in meaningful ways.” And, GAO recently affirmed the value of well-designed public-private job training partnerships, noting in a January 2012 report that these initiatives have helped to meet vital employer skill needs in communities across the nation while helping jobseekers get and keep well-paying jobs in high-growth and in-demand industries.