A long-awaited series of amendments and adjustments to federal job training and vocational rehabilitation legislation could have far-reaching impact for employers and benefits managers - not to mention cutting some bureaucracy and inefficiency from current training programs.

The sweep of updates, known as the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, are also being praised as an increasingly rare example of total cooperation between bipartisan members of Congress and both the business community and organized labor.

Once passed, the new act reauthorizes and amends the body of the Workforce Investment Act, which authorizes federal-level employment programs and investment in job training, employment services, adult education, retraining and rehabilitation.

The act, expected to be passed in the coming weeks, was a collaborative effort between Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and Rep. John Kline (R-MN), Chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee.

“We can’t expect a modern workforce to succeed with an outdated job training system. The current workforce development system is broken with too much bureaucracy, too many inefficiencies, and too little accountability,” said Kline.

See also: Challenges remain aligning employee rewards, business strategies

The original Workforce Investment Act, created in 1998, was originally set for reauthorization in 2003 but has been continually funded as a contentious job-training program for the past decade, with ongoing concern that the legislation was inefficient, overly cumbersome and did little to respond to the actual needs of American businesses.

The new Workplace Innovation and Opportunity Act takes a different approach, eliminating approximately 15 existing workforce development programs and instituting a series of common performance metrics for those federal training programs still covered under federal workforce rulings.

It’s also designed to more closely focus on business job training and hiring needs, with an emphasis on specialized training for in-demand industries and occupations.

According to Littler Mendelson’s Workplace Policy Institute, an employment lobbyist organization, the new act takes a more direct tack at offering concrete solutions for on-the-job training and education, with far more accountability.

The bipartisan collective of leaders pushing the new act say that by moving the training programs to a business-driven model, it will help “workers attain skills for 21st century jobs and foster the modern workforce that evolving American businesses rely on to compete.”

Explicit support for the act has not been issued by the White House, though spokesman Bobby Whithorne said the president applauds the political cooperation that has gone into the revamped ruling.

“While we are still reviewing the compromise package they have produced, it’s noteworthy that they represent a cross-section of Congress and came together in good faith to design a bill that is intended to move the economy forward,” he noted.

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