Webb introduces bill to strengthen adult ed, workforce training
Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) on Thursday introduced the Adult Education and Economic Growth Act of 2012, which will reform and increase investment in job training, adult education and other programs needed to build a 21st century workforce. Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) are original co-sponsors of the legislation.
According to the National Commission on Adult Literacy, 80-90 million U.S. adults today—about half of the adult workforce—do not have the basic education and communications skills required to obtain jobs that pay a family-sustaining wage or to enter and succeed in college. However, federal funding for adult education has declined in real terms since 2002, and the nation’s primary federal resource for adult education, job training and employment services—the Workforce Investment Act—has not been reauthorized or updated for over ten years.
“The American workplace has seen many changes over the past ten years, and the need for well-trained and highly skilled workers has increased dramatically. At the same time, our adult education system has not kept pace with this changing workforce,” said Sen. Webb. “One of the biggest impacts we can have on our economic future is to ensure that as many workers as possible are able to improve their skills and credentials to compete in our global economy.”
“We are proposing a two-pronged approach to strengthen the nation’s workforce. First, we want to build ‘on ramps’ for American workers who need new skills and a better education in order to improve their lives. Just as importantly, we want to protect and reward employers for helping them, by offering tax credits to businesses that invest in their employees,” Webb said. “Modest funding will invigorate state and local adult education programs to better align with workplace needs. This investment will have an affirmative ripple effect on our communities. And, it advances my longstanding goal of promoting basic economic fairness in our society.”
“We should work to make job training and adult education more accessible to Americans who need to update their skill sets for a 21st-century economy,” said Sen. Brown. “Across Ohio, I’ve heard from many employers that are hiring for open positions, but can’t find workers with the right skills to fill those jobs. The Adult Education and Economic Growth Act would help ensure that more Americans can get the educational essentials necessary to obtain a good-paying, middle-class job.”
Specifically, the Adult Education and Economic Growth Act of 2012 makes significant changes to adult education and training by:
Encouraging employers to invest in lower skilled working adults by providing a tax credit for employers who invest in their employee’s education;
Increasing funding for adult education to provide additional support for state and local authorities to ensure collaboration between adult education and workforce needs;
Improving access to correctional education programs to channel former offenders into productive endeavors and reduce recidivism; and
Expanding access to adult education services through the use of technology.
“As a matter of great economic urgency, we need to transform the current array of adult education and workforce skills programs into a coherent, integrated system that meets 21st century needs,” said Gail Spangenberg, president of the Council for Advancement of Adult Literacy, and Manager of the National Commission on Adult Literacy. “The National Commission on Adult Literacy applauds the future-thinking Adult Education and Economic Growth Act and Senator Webb’s leadership for recognizing these imperatives.”