The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) of 2014 was recently signed into law after 11 years in discussion and development. The bill authorizes appropriations of almost half a trillion dollars over the course of five years, and sets the tone and direction for state and local workforce systems during that period, probably longer.
Manufacturers should care because this bill will have significant impact on the availability of skilled workers while manufacturing rebounds in America. In addition to the many documents and explanations that an Internet search will return, I recently had the opportunity to sit in on presentations about WIOA from regional, state, and federal officials, and industry experts. From that discussion, I have concluded that the time for manufacturers to get involved is NOW.
The implementation of this 300-page piece of legislation will be governed by regulations that are presently under development by the Education and Training Administration of the U.S. Department of Labor. Proposed regulations are expected to be published this Spring. Once the rulemaking process is complete, each state will have approximately eight months to adapt the regulations to their unique regional situation and implement the act.
One of the pieces of advice being given to local Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs) is to engage their local industry partners early to insure a successful implementation. That means that during the next 12 months, local WIBs will be reaching out to industry. The industries that come quickly and easily to the table will be the ones that will influence state and local implementation.
Industry engagement will be more important for WIBs than it was under the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA) legislation that WIOA replaces. WIOA uses the term “industry partnership” 74 times, while WIA never mentioned the term at all. The act creates a number of metrics that WIBs will be evaluated against, one of which is employer engagement. Those employers that make it easy to engage will be the ones upon which the attention and funding is most likely to be focused.
The act has many aspects that will help manufacturers address their workforce skills issues. It places focus on training that leads to real jobs, on apprenticeships, and on other means of on-the-job training. It expects alignment, integration and acceleration along career pathways and will measure the use of industry credentials.
But if healthcare, retail, agriculture or hospitality are the industries stepping forward, they will receive the lion’s share of this huge investment, not manufacturers. Workforce professionals will be up to their eyebrows in reinventing their systems and processes while continuing day-to-day operations and services.
Think on the scale of your company simultaneously implementing SAP in operations in every county of the United States during an eight-month period.
If manufacturing steps up now with an offer of assistance and engagement, then these workforce professionals can attend to other areas of implementation, while the manufacturing segment gets to sit at the table to establish priorities.
The saying goes that all politics is local. So too, are workforce initiatives. Now is the time for every manufacturing plant and human resources manager across the country to avail themselves of the opportunities provided by the passage of the WIOA.
To learn more about the workforce system, career pathways, industry partnerships and the use of industry recognized credentials, download the free Manufacturing Workforce Development Playbook from www.packworld.com/workforce. In a future edition of the Playbook, we hope to address the changes brought about by implementation of WIOA.