Congressman Smith Introduces Bill to Empower Individuals Through Education and Workforce Training

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA) introduced the Empowering Individuals to Succeed Through Education and Workforce Training Act. This legislation would establish a new competitive grant program under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), dedicated exclusively to providing support services for individuals receiving workforce training and education.

Barriers to receiving an education or obtaining the skills needed to succeed are insurmountable for far too many individuals in this economy. Career and technical education and workforce training services provide opportunities for individuals to enter the workforce and are critical to addressing our nation’s skills gap. The financial burden often goes beyond just the costs of tuition. Reducing the barriers that individuals face to obtain training and education will help ready our workforce for in-demand, well-paid jobs.

“With persistent inequities in our society and an evolving economy, we must do more to help people obtain the education and skills they need to succeed. The Empowering Individuals to Succeed Through Education and Workforce Training Act will provide wraparound services that are needed to help individuals complete education and training programs for in-demand jobs in our economy,” said Congressman Adam Smith. “Equal opportunity for all is only possible when every person in our country can access programs leading to high-quality and good-paying jobs.”

“This is crucial legislation to serve our workforce and support the economic and civic drivers in our communities.  Not only will these funds assist in defraying challenges of housing, transportation and childcare, but will also connect students to health care, legal aid, and other community services,” said Renton Technical College President Kevin McCarthy. “Students benefiting from these services are much more likely to complete the training for which they are well qualified and passionate.”

“Education and training outcomes increase exponentially when students also have access to wrap around supports that help provide a stable foundation to focus on learning. These support services are exactly the critical needs for many of our students along their career pathway to living-wage jobs,” said Veronica Wade, Executive Dean of Professional Technical and Workforce Education, South Seattle College.

“Every day, working people, students, and families are looking for opportunities to get ahead but too few workers can access the skills, training and education necessary to access good jobs,” said Katie Spiker, Director of Government Affairs of National Skills Coalition. “Support services like childcare, transportation and career counseling are critical to workers’ ability to access and succeed in skills training programs that lead to jobs at the backbone of America’s economy.”

“As a service provider, it is crushing to see these same young people be pushed out of the programs that are set up to help them, said Kathryn Peterson, Program Manager at YouthCare. “Fortunately, these barriers, so often, can be easily remedied with just a little support from a service provider that actually has the funds allocated to specifically identify, and address, critical barriers to engagement that are outside of the typically funded services of transportation and identification support.”

“WIOA provides many opportunities to help job seekers advance their careers and achieve economic stability. This bill builds on the success of WIOA by establishing a new supportive services fund that will enable more participants to get the resources they need to complete their education and training. We applaud Representative Smith for introducing this important legislation,” said Olivia Golden, Executive Director of CLASP.

Through the Empowering Individuals to Succeed Through Education and Workforce Training Act, local and state workforce development boards would use grants to build partnerships with WIOA-supported programs and expand the capacity to help individuals receive support services including assistance with transportation, childcare or dependent care, and housing; referrals to health care services; legal aid services; and others. Individuals participating in a wide range of WIOA training and education programs would be eligible to receive support under the grant, such as skills upgrading and retraining, apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs, adult education and literacy activities, and occupational skills training.