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NY Representatives Praise Bipartisan Workforce Training Bill

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New York Congressional representatives are praising efforts in the House to pass a bill focused on strengthening local workforce training programs. The bill that would allow federal dollars to enhance existing programs passed with wide bi-partisan support. 

In a 415-6 vote, Congress recently passed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.

A version in the Senate was also approved 95-3, and the bill is headed to the president’s desk.

Republican Chris Gibson, representing New York’s 19th District, praised the bill that eliminates 15 duplicative workforce training programs, reduces administrative costs on state government, and creates new performance standards to evaluate existing programs.

“By consolidating the jobs training programs across the county, that allows us to reinvest those savings into actual support for individuals getting this kind of help, getting the vo-tech, getting the interviewing skills, getting the resume reviews. We now have more resources because they’re not going towards administration, they’re going towards operation,” said Gibson.

Gibson mentioned a program in the Delaware county town of Sidney, a collaboration between the municipality, the Utica School of Commerce, and defense contractor Amphenol, which employs around 1,000 in Sidney. The program can be supported by funding through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act to provide vocational training for students to replace an aging, retiring workforce.

The bill calls on state governments to consult with local officials to pinpoint where certain programs are needed. Democrat Bill Owens of northern New York’s 21st district said that will allow the government to better serve the populations that need help most.

“It goes back to giving the flexibility to local people to train, whether you’re talking about a high school student, somebody recently out of high school, somebody recently returned from the military, somebody getting out of college – we need to offer training programs that fill the needs in those communities,” said Owens.

The bill would expand youth employment programs including Jobs Corps, require states to build plans for assisting veterans through workforce training and transitional services, as well as encourage more communication with non-profits and the business community.

Capital District Democrat Paul Tonko commented on the strong bipartisan support for the bill.

“Certainly the success here came about because I think people see the urgency to get this done, and they know that we have to do our best to put people into working opportunities, and so I think it serves as an example of how Congress could and should be working,” said Tonko.

Tonko said he hopes the bipartisan momentum will continue to larger issues including immigration reform, and extending emergency compensation for unemployment benefits.

Owens, who is retiring, said he also wishes more legislation could be passed in a similar manner.

“That would certainly make me feel a lot better about the direction of Congress,” said Owens.

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
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