House Committee Brings Long-Awaited Workforce Changes Into 2024

House Committee Brings Long-Awaited Workforce Changes Into 2024

ICYMI: Just before the new year, some remarkable action happened in Congress. Two bipartisan bills succeeded past the House Committee on Education & the Workforce, both aimed at increasing opportunities for Americans to get the skills employers need for our economies to thrive. We are excited about the movement of these two bills because it is a step in the right direction for America’s workforce—but there is still more work to be done.

The House Education & Workforce Committee passed A Stronger Workforce for America Act (H.R. 6655), which amends and reauthorizes the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), the nation’s cornerstone legislation that drives billions of federal funds into our national workforce development system. We’re thrilled to see this progress and offer our full support to Congress in ensuring that America’s workforce system sees a long-overdue modernization. 

Per Scholas provides tuition-free, full-time training that opens a door for Americans who are committed to launching a career in technology to gain the skills and networks they need to succeed. For 28 years, Per Scholas has consistently helped adults increase their incomes 3x, and returns $8 in economic benefits for every $1 spent on training. 

While our learners contribute their time, energy, and their tremendous skills, our donors and employers cover the costs associated with training because we believe that economic mobility shouldn’t be packaged with financial debt. 

With our proven model, Per Scholas has been able to increase our scale of 2000 adult learners per year in 2020 by 150%—that means we’ll reach more than 5,000 immersive learners next year, plus 2,000 alumni committing to upskilling. But to keep this momentum in our training, we need our government to invest federal dollars in the right places. 

H.R. 6655 will make it easier for the current workforce system to support cohort-based, demand-driven models like Per Scholas. The newest provisions create stronger alignment for workers, training providers, and employers. In fact, several changes in the bill are a direct result of the advocacy Per Scholas and peer organizations have been undertaking over the last few years, as highlighted in our organization’s letter of support to the Committee.

A Closer Look at H.R. 6655

Thanks to these collective efforts, the bill would: 

  • Prioritize WIOA spending (50%) on skills development for adult participants and create better clarity around performance measures, including program completion and employment outcomes; 
  • Streamline the Eligible Training Provider List (ETPL) by putting a greater emphasis in labor market outcomes, and reduce barriers for multi-state providers; 
  • Encourage innovative sector partnerships by allowing states to invest in Critical Industry Skills initiatives, which allocates resources (10%) for training and employment services in high-needs industries; 
  • Allows states to have more flexibility in using their WIOA funds, including greater opportunities for pay-for-performance contracting, which yield long-term equitable outcomes for communities;
  • Enhance data linkages through the Workforce Data Quality Initiative and investments into workforce data infrastructure.

Also this past December, the House Education & Workforce Committee passed the Bipartisan Workforce Pell Act (H.R. 6585), which allows students and workers to upskill in high-demand industries by using federal Pell Grants to enroll in high-quality, short-term workforce programs. Per Scholas joined several peer organizations this year in promoting Pell expansion; in fact, the bill incorporates several recommendations that America Forward Coalition members shared in a public letter to Congressional leaders. 

One of our major priorities that made it into the bill was no restriction on fully online/distance programs (with just a few exceptions), plus emphasizing strong performance measures. These provisions help show a shift that student outcomes are more important than the program delivery method, and that remote learning options create accessibility. 

Per Scholas has as many instructional hours in our remote courses as our in-person and hybrid models, and it’s created access for many learners to launch their careers in tech. When Ariana Reed graduated from Per Scholas’ remote IT Support course last year, she felt that this was a big factor in helping her stay committed to completing the course. “It is a structured learning setting, even though it was online,” she said. “You get the experience of being in contact with other learners. You get the training – we did a lot of labs that gave us hands-on training. We had lots of resources under Per Scholas, even with the remote setting.” After graduating, Ariana started working as an IT Support Specialist at DaVita Kidney Care, a position that allows her to blend her interests in tech and healthcare.

H.R. 6585 links quality workforce programs to Pell funding, but it’s limited to accredited colleges and universities. Unfortunately, this excludes non-institutional providers like Per Scholas. This approach stifles growth among organizations and models that have most clearly demonstrated a positive impact on their participants’ economic mobility outcomes. 

We will continue to engage with Congressional leaders to advocate for strengthening Pell and other reforms. As both of these bills progress in the House, Per Scholas is excited to join many other workforce stakeholders in building on this progress and engaging our Senators this year. 

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