Daily Labor Report® is the objective resource the nation’s foremost labor and employment professionals read and rely on, providing reliable, analytical coverage of top labor and employment...
By Ben Penn
Alexander Acosta said he’s committed to training America’s workforce for modern jobs, but his confirmation hearing was clouded by President Donald Trump’s recent proposals to slash training programs.
Senators from both parties questioned the labor secretary nominee on how he’d oversee a workforce training funding stream that accounts for a significant share of the Labor Department’s overall budget. The White House recently called for a 21 percent cut in DOL funding, including by transferring the costs for some job training programs to states.
Acosta emphasized that he would take an evidence-based approach to cuts that varies by geographic region, rather than back an across-the-board decrease.
“If confirmed as secretary of labor, one of the things that I want to do is go through these programs that compiled the data, because for a lot of these programs I believe the rate of return on investment in taxpayer dollars is quite significant, and would pay for itself very readily from the jobs they’ve created,” Acosta told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
But some panel members, including Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), expressed concern that a significant cut couldn’t be made up for by states. “If we don’t have the workforce pipeline necessary to staff the supply chain, those jobs will go overseas,” Murphy said, referring to his state’s training system. “It’s not about mismatched resources; it’s simply about not having enough resources.”
Acosta’s opening remarks noted the need to ensure that job applicants have the skills to meet employers’ needs.
Asked whether Acosta’s message about the benefits of skills programs is undermined by Trump’s budget request, HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) told Bloomberg BNA after the hearing that lawmakers have final say on appropriations.
“The Congress will write the budget,” he said. “The president’s budget is just a suggestion, quickly made at the beginning of an administration.”
Acosta is widely expected to be confirmed. If he is, he said he’d immediately turn his attention to prioritizing DOL programs across all subagencies to see where efficiencies could be realized.
“Dollars are going to be more scarce is the reality,” Acosta said. “And so we’re going to have to make difficult decisions.”
One of Acosta’s other tasks if he’s confirmed would be to meet with key department stakeholders to ensure a smooth handoff of the implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. The 2014 bill reauthorized DOL funding for thousands of state and local job training programs, and received broad bipartisan support.
One such stakeholder, Scott Sanders, executive director of the National Association of State Workforce Agencies, told Bloomberg BNA that he completely agrees with Acosta that the programs must be evaluated to ensure a return on investment.
“I look forward to working with him, if he does get through the process, and helping him do that,” Sanders said. “I think he’s going to come in with a fresh pair of eyes and make sure that the taxpayers are getting the best bang for the buck.”
Maria Flynn, a senior career official at the DOL’s Employment and Training Administration from 1991 to 2007, said she’s encouraged by Acosta’s commitment to apprenticeship and training partnerships between employers, the federal government and education.
“But there’s an obvious disconnect between that and the information that was put out last week in the skinny budget,” Flynn, now president of Jobs for the Future, told Bloomberg BNA. “I’d be hopeful that if he’s confirmed, that having strong leadership in the department could maybe start to bring some examination and rationalization to the proposals.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Ben Penn in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)