Workforce Legislation and Committees to Watch in the 113th Congress
Randi Parker on
Friday, November 16, 2012
With each new session of Congress comes new hope that more will be done, and in a more bipartisan manner, than in the previous session. This is especially true for those with an interest in the American workforce, as several key pieces of legislation that affect it are either long overdue on being reauthorized or are quickly approaching their reauthorization deadline. The following are pieces of legislation to look out for:
- The Workforce Investment Act (WIA) expired in 2003 and, due to partisan disagreements on approach, has not been reauthorized since. WIA was created in 1998 to replace the Job Training Partnership Act to incentivize business to participate in localized workforce development services. In order to accomplish this, Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs) were created and private sector members of the local community were to chair the boards.
- The Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Improvement Act of 2006 was an update to a bill first signed into law in 1984. The bill was passed almost unanimously in 2006 and is set to expire at the end of 2012. The goal of Perkins is to increase the quality of technical education in the U.S. and provides almost $1.3 billion in federal support.
- The Higher Education Act of 1965 was last reauthorized in 2008 and is set to expire in 2013. The original intent of the law was to “strengthen the educational resources of our colleges and universities and to provide financial assistance for students in postsecondary and higher education.” The law has been reauthorized nine times since its enactment and through the course of the reauthorization has seen a great deal of changes to reflect the needs of the time.
- The Elementary and Secondary Education Act funds primary and secondary education while explicitly preventing the creation of a national curriculum. The law also focuses on equal access to education and establishes standards and accountability. This law is more commonly referred to as the No Child Left Behind Act.
Future blogs will go into greater detail in each of these key pieces of workforce legislation. Meanwhile, as the dust continues to settle post-election, let’s examine the state of the House and Senate workforce committees.
House Committee on Education and Workforce
The committee’s chairman, Rep. John Kline, and ranking member, Rep. George Miller, will retain their leadership roles. Although only one Republican member will not be returning to Congress next session, there will still be some new blood as committee assignments shift with various vacancies. The Democrats will have at least five open seats on the committee to fill.
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP)
Tom Harkin will remain as chairman but due to term limits, there will be a new ranking member, most likely Lamar Alexander. Currently, the committee is only set to lose one of its members but of course anything can change as the committee assignment process plays out.
The good news is that it is a new day and members of Congress are able to start from scratch and put the previous two years – if not more – behind them. It is our hope that the committees will throw out the partisan drafts of overdue bills that have kept them from reaching a deal thus far and will work together to make some much-needed changes to outdated programs. We also are hopeful that the committees will not let bills set to expire continue as the status quo past their due date. We are eager to help facilitate these conversations and look forward to working with members of Congress and their staff on important legislation.
Weak STEM Education Puts America at Risk
Todd Thibodeaux on
Thursday, March 22, 2012
This week, the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations issued an alarming report, U.S. Education Reform and National Security, on the connection between our comparatively weak schools and how they put America at a national security risk. The report notes that while the United States invests more in K-12 public education than many other developed countries, its students are ill-prepared to compete with their global peers. U.S. students rank 14th in reading, 25th in math, and 17th in science compared to students in other industrialized countries.
Since the dot com meltdown, technology has cooled off as a hot career for kids to pursue. But in reality, technology is still cool, and it’s a terrific career path. Schools (and guidance councilors) are failing to encourage students to pursue studies that will prepare them for the fastest-growing fields, including science, technology, engineering, and math.
While we typically think of the high-tech hacker or PhD when we think of careers in technology, students who are technically inclined have a range of options. Many can find great careers installing, maintaining and integrating new technologies such as virtualization and cloud, unified communications and mobility or developing technology solutions for small businesses. And there are other opportunities in sales, customer support, and account and IT project management. Best of all, most entry-level jobs don’t require a four-year degree, so these jobs really can be accessible to a wide range of kids.
When the economy is strong, there are typically more than 1 million rewarding, good-paying IT jobs of all stripes and colors in the market. Even in a slow recovering economy like we have today, there are more than 400,000!
We believe the solution lies in working with students to open up career paths. CompTIA is a big supporter of the Chicago Tech Academy, now in its second year of operation, where kids from some of the toughest neighborhoods of Chicago commute on average three hours a day to attend a school where they stay later, work harder and are challenged every day to be the best they can be. CompTIA has supported ChiTech with grants, employee time, computing equipment and instructional materials. We hope to see more schools around the country follow this example.
And we hope adults will let kids know that technology – and IT – is cool. Our future depends on it!
Providing Workforce Training for 21st Century Jobs
Elizabeth Hyman on
Thursday, January 26, 2012
In his State of the Union Speech, President Obama set a national goal
of training two million Americans so they can transition to 21st
century jobs. As the leading global provider of vendor-neutral IT
workforce certifications, CompTIA applauds this goal and stands ready to
work with the Administration to meet this important challenge.
The IT industry relies on a high-skilled technical workforce that is able
to adapt to new trends, innovate and remain globally competitive. Two
million employees within the domestic IT industry work for small and
medium-sized businesses, which rely on the expertise of their workforce
to provide the best services to their customers.
Right now, despite the uncertain economy, there are more than 300,000 IT and IT
related jobs that are unfilled. A critical gap exists between the open
jobs and filling them with skilled workers. Countless Americans will
benefit from addressing this gap; and countless small IT companies will
benefit from a better skilled workforce. That’s where training and
certification enter the picture.
CompTIA has issued more than 1.2
million certifications to individuals in the United States, providing
employers the certainty that these workers have the necessary skills to
fill the open IT slots. We have already seen the power of career and
technical education to transform lives and enhance small businesses.
Just from the work of our foundation, Creating IT Futures, we have
compelling testimonies to the importance of certifications. Take the
example of Timothy Burford, 34, a single father of two young children,
who served in the U.S. Army for several years as a Humvee mechanic.
After receiving an honorable medical discharge, Burford struggled to
find mechanical work related to his military job, ultimately finding
himself unemployed and homeless. Due to help and training through the
Fast Forward program, Burford was able to study and train for a CompTIA
certification. Today he has full-time IT work with the court system in
For the nation to meet the workforce challenge the
President has laid out, policies will need to focus on matching the
training and education workers need to the skills employers and the
market require. Furthermore, professionals within the industry who are
in need of re-training to adapt to new trends, technologies or market
needs should have access to it.
Workforce expansion, however, has
been somewhat hamstrung by a lack of accessible training and educational
opportunities, which are often costly to employers and employees.
While advanced degrees are important in some cases, career and technical
education are vital to the IT workforce. Industry credentials are an
important tool, for example, in providing core skills as well as
specialized technical training. Increasing the access to these tools
will not only help to build a stronger industry, but also will provide
consumers with better products and services. Consequently, CompTIA
- Support the public workforce system (Workforce
Investment Act and Perkins) so that those looking for work can get the
guidance and training they need.
- Provide the private sector with
expanded tools to raise their game through training and certification.
Namely we should amend the Lifetime Learning Tax Credit and the Business
Deduction for Work-Related Education to make it easier to obtain the
appropriate certifications and skills for the IT marketplace.
In addition to focusing on workforce training, the President mentioned
several other proposals that can help jumpstart the IT sector. We
appreciate the President's acknowledgement that "most new jobs are
created in startups and small businesses." And, we support his call to
change regulations that impede access to capital, such as the Reg. A
small business exemption. Also, we think it is important to enact
crowdfunding legislation that will streamline the ability of small
businesses to raise equity capital, while still providing safeguards for
We also fully support the President's call to "expand
tax relief to small businesses that are raising wages and creating good
jobs." A good place to start is to extend the payroll tax cut to small
businesses that are maintaining and creating the jobs required to
support our economic recovery and to decrease the compliance cost for
filing payroll tax returns by allowing more small businesses to file
2012 Priorities: Filling IT Jobs, Supporting Small IT Biz, Securing Tech
Elizabeth Hyman on
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
2012 promises to be an interesting year in Washington, D.C., with the upcoming presidential election dominating the political scene. Members of Congress will be anxious to wrap up the session so they can get home to campaign for reelection. This means that the calendar will be compressed and legislative achievements will be limited.
That said, hot issues will kick up (such as the online piracy debate), and we see some opportunities to push ahead with CompTIA priorities. Moreover, Washington sometimes favors long-term thinking, and the issues where we stake out leadership now can reap returns down the road. So with that in mind, we share with CompTIA membership our 2012 Public Policy Priorities:
Support Skills for the 21st Century Workforce
Even in this uncertain economy, there are more than 300,000 IT and IT-related jobs that are presently unfilled. As a country, we need to do a better job of getting educators on the same page with employers so that Americans are career-ready and able to thrive in the IT field.
As the leading global provider of vender-neutral IT workforce certifications, CompTIA can play a leading role in this effort. This year we will continue to focus on how our public workforce system can be more responsive to this task. In addition we want to find ways to work with employers and employees to improve individual skill levels through education and training. And we will be on the front lines of ensuring that the federal workforce is adequately trained in IT.
Champion the SMB Tech Entrepreneur
Seventy-five percent of all IT products and services are sold to businesses through the channel, as opposed to through retailers or direct sales. This represents more than $350 billion in sales, a significant contribution to the national economy. Many of these channel companies are small and medium-sized enterprises, and CompTIA estimates that these SMB IT firms employ nearly 2 million Americans, spending over $110 billion annually on payroll. Yet, when national policy is debated, the interests of these SMBs are too often misunderstood.
This year, CompTIA will fight for access to capital so that small innovative companies can get the resources they need to grow and contribute even more to the economy. We will continue to advocate for a fair and simpler tax code, with our first priority an extension of the payroll tax holiday. CompTIA also will fight for a fair and rational approach to interstate taxation on goods and services sold over the Internet – one that appropriately exempts small businesses from excessive compliance costs.
Lead in Internet Governance and Security
Tablets, smartphones, game consoles and traditional desktop and laptop computers continue to proliferate. We now have more raw computing power contained in our smartphones than the cumulative mission control IT capability that propelled mankind on the first lunar missions in the 1970s. Increasingly, economic expansion will rest on the creation of new and innovative business models and solutions that leverage Internet-based platforms. The rules that govern these platforms must ensure security, protect consumer needs, and provide a level playing field so that small and medium-sized companies can participate in our Internet economy.
This year, we will support efforts to pass meaningful legislation on cybersecurity and press for a rational approach to data breach and notification laws. CompTIA will weigh in on emerging privacy legislation to ensure that there is a proper balance between consumer-friendly practices and barriers to entry for SMB firms. We will insist on technology-neutral legislation so that platforms like cloud computing can flourish.
Lastly, as new technologies such as mobility and machine-to-machine technologies take shape CompTIA will help to keep policy makers abreast of developments and their implications. We need education and understanding before action.
To learn more about our annual priorities click here. Feel free to contact the CompTIA public advocacy team if you have any questions. Follow us on Twitter: @CompTIA or @Tech_Voice, and stay tuned.
Perkins Level Funded: What Should the Next Perkins Act Look Like?
Elizabeth Hyman on
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Funding equal to FY 2011 levels for the Perkins Act was included in the “mega-bus” FY2012 appropriations bill that Congress passed as it left for the holiday season. This is considered a victory for Perkins supporters who pushed back against reductions. The Perkins Vocational and Technical Education is a crucial component in the career and technical education arsenal – helping States through formula grants to support training and education. Countless Americans rely on Perkins to ensure they can start on a path toward gainful employment.
Yet even as we close the chapter on funding for FY2012, the Department of Education is already thinking about a next iteration – a reauthorization – of the Perkins Act that Congress will have to take up (perhaps even starting in 2012). In fact, in November at the Association for Career and Technical Education annual conference in November, Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier of the federal Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) outlined the following priorities for Perkins:
- Encourage innovation and build evidence.
- Incentivize better outcomes for students and greater employer involvement.
- Articulate clear pathways for student success.
- Develop tools to support stakeholders in the CTE delivery system.
In continuing to build clarity and direction for the Perkins Act reauthorization process, OVAE has also been circulating a series of questions to interested audiences. The questions themselves reinforce where the department is headed in asking for reauthorization from Congress.
Many of the 450,000 IT and IT-related jobs that are open presently do not require college degrees. Vocational education and certifications can provide for a skilled and able workforce. Thus CompTIA members have a vested interest in how Perkins is shaped into the future. Take the time to read these questions and share with the CompTIA public advocacy staff how you would reply to these inquiries. How is Perkins working? Should funding switch from formula based grants to other systems such as performance-based? The CompTIA community supports Workforce Development. Let’s plan early and get a seat at the table as the Perkins Act reauthorization process gets underway.
CompTIA Members Stress Access to Capital, Skilled Workers in D.C.
Leslie Hague on
Monday, November 21, 2011
Access to capital and a skilled workforce are critical to the success of small- and medium-sized IT businesses, CompTIA members told Congressional members and Administration officials today.
On the final day of CompTIA's Washington D.C. Fly-In event, CompTIA members from across the country met with policymakers to stress the issues that are important to small- and medium-sized tech businesses.
Meeting with officials at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, members said access to capital was a trying issue for IT businesses, as banks often do not recognize intellectual property or a recurring revenue model as valuable assets.
"Because it's not a physical asset, it's totally ignored," said Joey Benadretti, president of SYSPRO.
Other members said they had to turn to credit cards to upfront money for projects, or were forced to put plans for innovative projects on hold.
"There's a lot of interest in figuring out what we can do to make it easier for small businesses to have access to capital," Tom Kalil, Deputy Director for Policy, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, said.
Several members told officials how hard it was to find qualified technology workers and suggested incentives for businesses to get employees trained to current IT skills, instead of incentivizing individual workers. Businesses know better than individuals what skills are needed in the workforce, they said.
"You guys are trying to create jobs," Kevin McDonald, executive vice president of Alvaka Networks, said. "We’re telling you there are 450,000 IT jobs now that aren't filled."
He also asked officials to add a small business representative to the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.
In fact, having small business representation in Washington was one of the main reasons behind the entire Fly-In event. Bringing together small business owners to address concerns with policymakers as a group has a bigger impact, noted Raj Khera, CEO of MailerMailer LLC.
"The large companies have lobbyists here talking to Congress all the time," he said. "This is our time to come together as a force."
CompTIA Members Stress IT Industry's Importance to Policymakers
Leslie Hague on
Monday, November 21, 2011
In more than 50 meetings on Capitol Hill today, CompTIA members from across the country stressed how instrumental small- and medium-sized IT companies are to the nation's economy.
Members who attended CompTIA's Washington DC Fly-In event discussed specific legislation with elected officials and legislative staff, as well as the recurring themes of access to capital for small- and medium-sized companies, cybersecurity, and IT workforce development.
Even in a down economy, IT worker unemployment is low and more than 450,000 IT jobs nationwide are unfilled. Incentivizing businesses to hire and train employees in current IT skills would go a long way to rectifying that disconnect, said Mark Miller, CEO of New Horizons Worldwide.
"IT isn't vertical, it's horizontal. It touches everything," Robert Kratzke, president of GlobeNet Training, told Rep. Jim Gerlach of Pennsylvania. "It's an amazing opportunity for people."
Wendy Frank, president of Accell Security, stressed the need for a national standard for data security.
"Ninety percent of the country doesn't have those laws to protect people," she said. "It's a situation for the public, and for us in technology."
She suggested a federal standard similar to Massachusetts's recent data security law that sets requirements for any business that deals with individuals' personal information electronically, such as encrypting files that pass over public networks and having up-to-date security software.
Paul Sass, Deputy Staff Director at the House Small Business Committee, told CompTIA members that the committee plans to push for a higher percentage of federal contracts to be required to go to small businesses.
"And we're trying to find ways to give the law more teeth," so there are repercussions for federal agencies that don't meet the requirements, he said.
CompTIA members said they appreciated the time to speak to policymakers, and several noted they now have specific individuals they can follow up with on certain proposals and ideas.
"We didn't solve any big issues today, but we've opened the door for ongoing communication," Miller said.
Making those connections was one of the goals of the day. Another was stressing the importance of the IT channel, particularly the role of small- and medium-sized IT companies in it, said Liz Hyman, CompTIA vice president of public advocacy. Seventy-five percent of all IT products and services are sold or provided to businesses through the channel, as opposed to retailers and direct sales, she said.
"SMBs are the glue of this industry," she said. "We want to get light bulbs going off in those offices about how important small and medium IT businesses are."
Funding Bill Invests in Cyber Jobs
Elizabeth Hyman on
Wednesday, November 09, 2011
A look at the week of November 7 in public advocacy for the IT channel: This week, the Senate passed a bill that funds multiple cybersecurity initiatives. Small businesses that expand to serve government contracts are lobbying for some mid-size business protections. Rep. James Langevin (D-RI) is calling on Congress to speed up work on a cybersecurity bill.
Funding Bill Invests in Cyber Jobs — A funding bill that would expand federal cybersecurity jobs and invest in scholarships for prospective cyber workers passed the Senate this week, reports Nextgov.com. The 2012 Commerce, Justice and Science spending bill funds multiple cybersecurity initiatives, including expanding National Science Foundation student grants to create career tracks in cybersecurity, adding 19 new cyber positions at the FBI and creating a National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence.
Contractors Find Gains Hard to Hold — A growing number of the businesses that provide professional services to the U.S. government say they struggle to compete against much bigger rivals once they successfully become mid-sized firms, says The Wall Street Journal. Mid-Tier Advocacy, a Washington, D.C.-based lobbying group formed early last year to advocate for businesses that have outgrown the small-business size standards, hopes to make the transition easier.
Cybersecurity and the Missing Sense of Urgency — Daily cybersecurity intrusions are threatening America’s ability to remain the world leader in innovation, yet few are paying attention, according to Rep. James Langevin (D-RI), co-chairman of the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus. The Washington Post reports that Rep. Langevin is calling for the creation of a cybersecurity director in the executive branch. Currently, Cybersecurity Coordinator Howard Schmidt does not have the authority to reach across agencies and require that they follow mandatory cybersecurity reporting, Rep. Langevin said.
Jobs Bill Stalls in Senate
Lamar Whitman on
Thursday, October 13, 2011
The President’s $447 Billion jobs bill, S. 1660, the “American Jobs Act of 2011, ” failed to garner the votes needed to move forward. By a margin of 50-49, the Senate vote fell short of the 60 votes needed to avoid a filibuster.
This jobs bill was made particularly unpopular to most Republicans after Senate leadership changed the funding mechanism to a “millionaire surtax.” Basically, this millionaire surtax would have required individuals to pay an additional 5.6-percent surtax on incomes in excess of $1,000,000, raising $450 billion over 10 years. As originally proposed, this legislation would have been funded by reducing the itemized deduction allowance for individuals earning more than $200,000 and families earning more than $250,000 (only 28 percent of the total itemized deductions would have been allowed as a deduction).
Even though the bill as a whole has stalled, many expect Senate Democrats will repackage a number of its provisions on which bi-partisan support could be rallied. However, even the most popular provisions contained in this legislation could certainly fall hostage to the continuing political stalemate.
Some of the provisions that would have benefitted small businesses include:
- Provide a 50-percent reduction in payroll taxes for the first $5 million in wages.
- Eliminate employer payroll taxes for small businesses that create jobs or give a wage increase from the prior year.
- Extend the section 179 deduction through 2012.
- Establish a tax credit for hiring unemployed veterans or the long-term unemployed.
So, in view of the continuing legislative impasse, passage of measures that are clearly bi-partisan remain politically uncertain.
Federal Agencies Report Concerns with Cloud Migration
Elizabeth Hyman on
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
A look at the week of September 19 in public advocacy for the IT channel:
This week, agencies report doubts about the White House “cloud first” policy as cyberattacks continue to be a rising threat. Government Health IT takes an in-depth look at the joint electronic health record (EHR) project that the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are working on. As the job market in the U.S. continues to struggle, lawmakers consider programs to attract foreign investment and entrepreneurs. Agencies Report Concerns with Cloud Migration — Politico
reports that federal agencies — ranging from the Defense
departments to the National Institutes of Health
— are having second thoughts about moving government secrets and essential functions to the Web in the face of a growing number of cyberattacks from online assailants. The agencies worry that a White House policy instituted late last year
requiring them to move services to cloud computing puts their concerns over cybersecurity second. DOD and VA Face Challenges in Open Source EHR Project —
The joint electronic health record (EHR) project that the Department of Defense
are creating is the largest and possibly most challenging open source project a federal health agency has undertaken, says Government Health IT
. Managing the demands of two departments currently running on different records systems, integrating private providers, and working with the open source code that will sprout around the next-generation EHR is complicated, but the most difficult part might be creating a climate similar to Linux, in which the VA, DoD, partners, vendors and private providers all share code under an open source license. Lawmakers Praise Visa Programs to Attract Foreign Investors, Entrepreneurs —
Lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee's Immigration subpanel
praised two visa programs that could create thousands of jobs in the US, reports The Hill
. The proposals are backed by many tech companies, which rely heavily on foreign investors and entrepreneurs. The EB-5 investor visa program
aims to attract foreign investment to the US but is set to expire in 2012. The second program, the start-up visa program, is part of a bill introduced by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA)
, which would encourage entrepreneurs to start their businesses in this country.