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MI Works! says 'A Stronger Workforce for America Act’ passed US House Committee, needs tweaks

The bills would allow people to sign up to be organ donors when they file state taxes.
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The Stronger Workforce for America Act would change funding and how workforce development districts are determined.

The Michigan Works! Association has some concerns with a federal bill updating workforce development laws. It said some provisions could impact the effectiveness and flexibility of local workforce development efforts in Michigan.

The Stronger Workforce for America Act aims to modernize the 20-14 Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.

The association agrees the law is due for an update.

Michigan Works! CEO Ryan Hundt said there's a lot of good in the bill. "We're excited that there's bipartisan support and that there are productive conversations happening in Washington, D.C. on the legislation," he said.

Hundt said workforce development boards use strategies tailored to local economic conditions and employer needs. But he described three provisions in this bill as "one-size-fits-all" requirements.

As written, workforce development boards would be required to spend 50% of funding on training for job seekers, and the definition of "training" is vague.

"Yes, those individuals do need training, but they also might need wrap-around services to help them get to and from work or to and from training," Hundt said. Michigan Works! also helps job seekers find quality child care, and it provides career coaching and counseling as well. Hundt wasn't sure those services would count as "training". If they are not, those wraparound services may not be possible

State governors set aside part of the budget for a "critical industries fund". The bill would require states to set aside 10% more of the budget.

Michigan Works! said, "While the intent to focus on critical industries is understandable, this shift in funding risks duplicating services that are already being effectively delivered at the local level."

Hundt is also worried about possible changes to how workforce development districts are determined. He described the current process where governors in each state works collaboratively with their local workforce development areas. In Michigan, there are 16 local workforce development boards, which are local Michigan Works! offices.

"Right now we have a pretty significant say into the process as to how a workforce development area or area can be designated, whether that's splitting them up, trying to increase the number of areas or even combining areas," Hundt said. "The way that the designation process is written in the updated legislation currently being considered by Congress, in our mind, would remove some of that accountability at the local level."

In the proposed legislation, if a governor does wish to designate local workforce development areas, it goes to a vote to the boards. If the majority of local workforce boards vote against the governor's proposal, the governor would have two choices.

"If the initial proposal were voted down by the local workforce boards, they would either have to combine or redesignate under the economic development regions," Hundt said.

If there is a re-designation process, Michigan Works! wants to see there be a third option: to maintain the existing local workforce areas with approval by the local Michigan Works! officers themselves.

Katheryne Friske is the weekend morning host and producer for All Things Considered.
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