Business Groups: Don't Cut Worker-Training Program Funds

Tuesday, 23 Aug 2011 12:49 PM

By Greg McDonald

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A group of American business organizations is urging U.S. lawmakers to continue funding a key worker training and education program as they prepare to make decisions on spending cuts to alleviate the nation’s fiscal crisis.
Banding several chambers of commerce and business organizations nationwide, the campaign aims to keep the pressure on reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), which was passed in 1998 to help match worker skills with local job demands.

As the economy has worsened, the 3,000 career centers created under the program have been deluged with unemployed workers seeking help and direction.

 “Businesses want to expand and create 21st century jobs, but we can’t do that if we don’t have a workforce with the skills and training needed to fill them,” said Gary Toebben, president and chief executive officer of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.

The Los Angeles chamber has signed on to a letter with 69 other organizations urging the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee to reauthorize the WIA, which expires next year. The panel is expected to vote on the measure this fall.

The letter follows on the heels of several reports suggesting that many unemployed workers no longer have skills that are in demand, and they need to be retrained to compete in today’s job market. 

James W. Oberwetter, the former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia under President George W. Bush, said in a statement of support for reauthorization that it makes “common sense” to fund job-creation programs.

“The only antidote for our debt challenge is economic growth, powered by increasing the skills of America’s labor force and putting it back to work,” said Oberwetter, now president of the Dallas Regional Chamber of Commerce.

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