Blumenthal Leads Effort for Investment in Job Training and Adult Education

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and thirteen Senate colleagues wrote the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget this week, urging them to provide adequate funding for job training and adult education programs authorized under the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) for FY 2013 budget requests.

In the last decade, funding for workforce development programs has declined more than 30 percent despite increased demand.

In the letter, the Senators wrote, “Nearly two-thirds of all job openings from 2008-2018 are projected to require at least some postsecondary education or training, but as many as 90 million Americans lack the skills or credentials needed in today’s labor market. Expanding access to job training and postsecondary and adult education is imperative to ensuring that all workers can obtain the skills and credentials required to get and keep well-paying jobs.”

In addition to Senator Blumenthal, the letter was signed by Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK), Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY), Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD), Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI), Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV), Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR). 

The full text of the letter is below:

Dear Acting Director Jeffrey Zients:

As you develop the Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 budget requests for the U.S. Departments of Labor and Education, I urge you to ensure that the final budget proposes adequate investments in job training and adult education programs authorized under the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), and provides sufficient support for the Pell Grant program so that U.S. workers and businesses have access to the skills they need to rebuild the economy and maintain our country’s competitive edge.

Nearly two-thirds of all job openings from 2008-2018 are projected to require at least some postsecondary education or training, but as many as 90 million Americans lack the skills or credentials needed in today’s labor market. Expanding access to job training and postsecondary and adult education is imperative to ensuring that all workers can obtain the skills and credentials required to get and keep well-paying jobs.  

WIA-funded workforce programs have been—and must continue to be—a part of the solution. Last year, more than 9 million individuals received training and other employment services through WIA Title I programs - a 248 percent increase in participation rates in just two years – and more than half of these individuals found employment as a result. Demand is also increasing for WIA Title II adult basic education programs: last year, 49 states had waiting lists for entry into adult education programs, with more than 160,000 applicants unable to access services. 

Despite increased demand, funding for federal workforce development programs has declined in the last decade by more than 30 percent, with more than $1 billion in funding cuts in just the last two years including more than $350 millionfrom WIA formula grants. These cuts are already having an impact: a recent survey of workforce providers indicated that more than three-quarters expected to reduce training, and nearly half stated they would have to reduce enrollments in adult literacy services.

Similarly, recent changes to the Pell Grant program could eliminate access for nearly 150,000 students next year alone, while more than a quarter of a million additional students will see their awards reduced at a time of rapidly rising tuition costs. These changes will most significantly impact nontraditional students, likely even further reducing access to skills training for working adults.  

While I recognize the fiscal constraints facing Congress and the Administration, wemust work together to prioritize investments in the skills of the U.S. workforce. Specifically, I urge you to: 

Restore funding for WIA Title I programs—including the Adult, Dislocated Worker, and Youth formula grants—to at least FY 2010 levels. At a minimum, we must maintain current funding levels for these programs, and reject any proposals to consolidate or otherwise modify WIA funding that would have the effect of reducing overall funding for workforce development or otherwise limiting access to services for jobseekers or employers.

Maintain current funding levels for adult education state grants under Title II.

Provide new funding to support innovative state and local workforce development strategies, such as subsidized employment, summer jobs, industry partnerships, and other strategies identified in the Pathways Back to Work Act.

Maintain the current maximum Pell Award at $5,550. Reject any further funding cuts or programmatic changes toPell that would reduce access to postsecondary education and training for working adults and other non-traditional students. 

Thank you for your attention to these critical issues. I look forward to working with you to ensure that our investments in the U.S. workforce are sufficient to meet the needs of America’s workers and businesses.

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Press Contact

Kate Hansen (Blumenthal) 202-224-2823