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Federal job training bill has made-in-NC elements

Federal legislation to streamline job training and make it more relevant to employers’ needs – a bill with some “made in North Carolina” elements – is headed to President Barack Obama’s desk.

U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx, a Republican from Banner Elk who chairs the House committee education and its subcommittee on higher ed and workforce training, was one of the authors of the legislation. It also includes parts of the AMERICA Works Act, which was introduced by U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, a Democrat from Greensboro.

The bill ties federal workforce training money to local and regional employers, who will help customize training programs at high schools and community colleges. It also consolidates programs and provides more local flexibility in how they’re run.

Hagan’s legislation, now part of the bill, requires that operators of job-training centers prioritize training that will lead to nationally recognized credentials that employers in a region require for jobs. She said in a statement that this “helps bridge the skills gap and ensure our job training programs are as effective as possible.”

Hagan introduced the bill with Sens. Dean Heller, R-Nev, and Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., last year. Her office said it doesn’t add anything to the deficit. It’s modeled after a program at Forsyth Technical Community College in Winston-Salem.

According to Hagan’s office, many employers in manufacturing report a shortage of qualified workers even as more than 300,000 North Carolinians remain out of work. Nationwide, there are about 4.6 million job openings, including 292,000 in manufacturing.

The new law will consolidate workforce training programs and bring more accountability “so the money that’s being spent is going directly to services for people who need to develop skills for the jobs that are currently available,” Foxx said on Friday at a ceremony in the House of Representatives before the bill went on to the president. The House overwhelmingly passed it Thursday, and the Senate passed it in June.

The bipartisan effort and cooperation between the two chambers was rare. “It shows we can get things done,” House Speaker John Boehner said at the ceremony.

Foxx also said that nothing gets done in Congress without collaboration, and she also acknowledged the hard work of committee staffers.

“This is a monumental achievement and I’m glad to have played a small part getting to where we are,” she said.

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