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Senator Stumps for More IT Training Funds

U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D.-Wash.) told an IT industry group Thursday that the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), a $6.6 billion federal job training program that is up for reauthorization this year, needs to put greater emphasis on New Economy skills such as IT training.

Originally authorized in 1998, the WIA operates primarily through state Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs), allowing "incumbent" and displaced workers to obtain new job skills throughout the states. However, the WIBs have targeted the training funds for manufacturing and other Old Economy skills.

"Today, even the most basic of worker skills demands knowledge of IT," Murray told the Technology Workforce Coalition (TWC) in a Washington briefing. "The WIA reauthorization represents an ideal opportunity to refocus a great program, making it more compatible with the IT demands of the globally competitive workplace."

At the event, TWC coalition manager CompTIA, coalition representatives from Microsoft, and distance learning expert Steve Hoffman also urged maximizing IT training opportunities for workers by requiring certification of those skills; easing and harmonizing WIA eligibility barriers for IT training companies; increasing employer involvement on the WIBs; and emphasizing innovative IT industry capabilities, such as Web-based distance learning, to bridge socio-economic and/or geographic barriers to greater workforce training.

"Skills that were once important have radically changed, with IT-dependence clearly being the rule, not the exception anymore," noted Martin Bean, TWC chairman and COO of New Horizons Computer Learning Centers. "WIA needs to get in step with the 21st century, directing the WIBs to allocate more funding for IT training if it's truly to benefit workers, employers and our economy."

Added Bean, "The TWC looks forward to working with all stakeholders to refocus WIA, making it a tool that workers and companies across all sectors can better use to meet the needs of today's ever-evolving, IT-dependent workplace."