Tuberville Advocates for Improvements to Workforce Training Programs in Senate HELP Hearing

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) spoke about the need to improve data sharing within the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) system, following the introduction of his Workforce DATA Act yesterday. WIOA provides job training for unemployed Americans and helps people climb the ladder of economic opportunity. Since the WIOA’s reauthorization in 2014, the American workforce has drastically changed. Under the current system, states must report metrics about the success of the program to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Currently, it is unclear which entities (state, local, or providers) are responsible for data collection, resulting in an unclear picture of both the effectiveness of the program and the American workforce. Senator Tuberville’s Workforce DATA Act would clarify responsibilities of data collection, increase participation standards, help businesses hire skilled workers, and make sure that taxpayers get the best return on their investment. In a U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing, Senator Tuberville spoke with Matthew Dickerson of Mid-South Extrusion and Monty Sullivan of Louisiana Community and Technical College about WIOA and how his bill would help more Alabamians enter the workforce. 

Excerpts from Senator Tuberville’s remarks can be found below, and his full remarks can be viewed here.

TUBERVILLE: “You know, whenever I hear from my folks back in Alabama, workforces [are] top of their mind. We’re struggling right now in our states—struggling to fill jobs, struggling to match up the right people with the right job, struggling to keep businesses open, struggling to keep costs affordable. It’s a huge problem. Reauthorization of the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act will be a huge step in the right direction—I think we all agree with that. Now, I know my colleagues on both sides of the aisle all have been hearing a lot about this issue. We’ve all discussed it, and people across the country have been speaking up, offering solutions. A lot of my colleagues have spoken up and presented their ideas, and I have one myself—I introduced the Workforce DATA Act yesterday. This bill is simple. It was developed in coordination with stakeholders across the WIOA system and it would help ensure these federal dollars are getting to the right folks. My bill would improve data sharing within the WIOA system and allow local boards and providers access to wage data from unemployment insurance system. This would allow them to measure performance with better and more accurate measures of success. We will be able to determine which training is working, and which folks are being helped by these programs, straightforward and simple. Hopefully, we can do something with this. Mr. Dickerson, you started your career as [a] high school coach. I think we have a little bit in common. And thank you for your service because teaching is a service. Coaching is a service. Can you tell us about what employers are looking at from the WIOA system?”

DICKERSON: “Yes, sir. Thank you for the question. And some of my fondest memories were as a high school coach, and there’s a lot of lessons that can be applied in the business as well. But from an industry standpoint, I think a partnership in our workforce development is what we’re looking for. And I made a statement in my testimony that it’s our time to really step up and help bridge that gap. But for too long and for too many years, especially since COVID, I think business and industries are spending more internal dollars on developing their own workforce because the lack of participation from the external. And that’s just not sustainable for a business in our budget. And so, considering a strong partnership with our community partners, our local workforce boards, our community technical college system is what we would really be looking forward to.”

TUBERVILLE: “Is the current system working?”

DICKERSON: “I think there’s challenges with the current system that make it difficult to be successful. I think we have some spotlights in Northeast Louisiana that I’m proud of to say that we are working, but not to scale and not to meet the demand of employers in our areas.”

TUBERVILLE: “You know, education is the opportunity for our kids in the country. And I heard even earlier about people that have lost their jobs [for failing to teach our children], which is rightly so. [I’ve been in] education all my life. Our education system has abandoned us in some degree, we need to do a lot more work with that. And I know [we] have two huge manufacturing plants in Mobile. We make commercial jets. We make ships and submarines. And they have gone out recruiting in McDonald’s and Walmart to train people how to weld and how to do plumbing and electricity, some of the best workers. We can’t sustain our country like that. We can’t do it. It’s got to be done through the educational system. Too many of our kids go to four-year schools that don’t need to go. I’ve watched that. I was part of that, and saw kids that come and get a degree in something that they could never get a job and had to go work at Walmart. So, Dr. Sullivan, why is WIOA funding having such a minimum impact on our broader workforce needs?”

SULLIVAN: “I think it’s important. Thank you for the question. I think it’s important to note the funding level of WIOA. I think it was referenced at about $3 billion. Just for a sake of reference, the federal appeal program is about $30 billion. So, just let that sink in for a second about the scope and scale. Think about the number of colleges. […] Think about the number of colleges that are available and the ability to be able to scale as you heard Mr. Dickerson say a few minutes ago to ensure that everyone has that opportunity. I think that’s where we’ve got to find a way. But the reality is, there are very few people out of the 150,000 that we have educated every year in Louisiana’s community and technical colleges that are funded via WIOA. That number is likely very similar to the number that you have in Alabama, somewhere around the 1,100 or 1,200 range.”

TUBERVILLE: “Yeah. Yeah. We’re in a tough situation, you know. I’m all for Pell Grants. I’ve dealt with them for years with football players and all that. Problem is I think they’re misused, but we could use Pell Grants more for workforce development for kids that just want to specify on something. I think that junior colleges, obviously, there’s a lot of things that we can do to help, but we just don’t do it. We talk about it. We don’t do it. Thank you, Mister Chairman.”

Senator Tommy Tuberville represents Alabama in the United States Senate and is a member of the Senate Armed Services, Agriculture, Veterans’ Affairs, and HELP Committees.