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Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., drafted and negotiated a jobs package that the Senate unanimously agreed to today. The legislation would help millions of Americans get back to work or find new or better jobs through training and employment assistance.

The Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Amendments of 2003, S. 1627, passed by unanimous consent. The bill reauthorizes and amends the 1998 WIA legislation enacted to create a streamlined job training and employment system that would be responsive to the needs of employers and workers.

"The impossible is what we have basically done here today. Unanimous consent means everybody agreed to the final wording without the need for a single change or more discussion. That's the really amazing part," said Enzi. "This legislation was potentially controversial because it concerns jobs at a time when more jobs are very important to our economy, but we managed to secure bipartisan support and pass it unanimously. This is an important jobs bill that focuses resources on local needs and new technology and tackles the problem of wage disparity between men and women."

Enzi, who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Subcommittee on Employment, Safety and Training, authored the bill with Sens. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., Judd Gregg, R-N.H., and Patty Murray, D-Wash.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., praised Enzi for his work on the bill, which he believes will have an impact on the nation.

"I want to congratulate Sen. Enzi for outstanding work. This is a bill that he has worked on for a long period of time as we've talked about jobs, job creation, and the workplace," said Frist. "I really want to congratulate him and his colleagues who worked in a bipartisan way on an excellent piece of legislation that will have a true impact on what we all care so much about and that is the economy, jobs and the setting in which those jobs are carried out."

Enzi also spearheaded the inclusion of a provision in the bill that would give women the opportunity to narrow the wage gap. Another provision Enzi put in the bill would improve conditions for migrant farm-worker youth. Enzi said both provisions are particularly important to Wyoming.

The reauthorizing legislation would improve the existing One-Stop Career Center delivery system by better connecting the job training system with the private sector and post-secondary education and training, social services, and economic development systems. This would be done by removing barriers that currently exist that have discouraged business involvement, particularly small businesses, in workforce training.

The legislation would also leverage technology to improve access to WIA services throughout each state, including rural areas.

Enzi said the legislation is projected, in 2004, to help more than 940,000 dislocated workers get back to work. Additionally, more than 540,000 adult workers are projected to receive assistance in finding new or better jobs.

The bill is expected to next be considered by a joint Senate-House conference committee.

Statement of Senator Michael B. Enzi
Workforce Investment Act Amendments of 2003, S. 1627

The signs are all around us. They can be seen in the economic reports in the papers, in the economic forecasts that are discussed on the weekend talk shows, and in reports on the job market. It all adds up to some good news for the people of this Nation – the economy is getting stronger.

It hasn't happened overnight, of course. By taking action to lay the groundwork for our economic recovery, we have ensured the presence of more capital in our economy which has already started to lead to the creation of more jobs. There are telling signs that the labor market is on the mend. The economy gained 126,000 jobs in October – almost twice the market forecast of 65,000.

Now we will take the next step. With the passage of the Workforce Investment Act Amendments of 2003, we lay the groundwork for helping millions of Americans get back to work or find new or better jobs through training and employment assistance.

It is very clear that the face of our Nation's economy is changing. The kind of jobs that are available now – and will be in the future - are different from those that were highly valued a few years, or even months, ago. Last month, for instance, there was significant job growth in the professional, educational and health related services sectors. The manufacturing sector, however, continued to lose jobs. To keep the American dream within the grasp of all Americans, we will have to deal with the changing face of our economy. To do that we must ensure that job seekers have the skills they need for the new economy. We must also bring together workforce supply and demand to ensure that our businesses have the skilled employees they need to compete in a more global economy.

That is why this legislation is so very important. Workforce development is a powerful economic development tool. This legislation builds upon the successes of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 while addressing its shortcomings. In so doing, this bill will improve the lives of millions of our workers, and increase the strength of our businesses and communities.

This legislation that I introduced along with Senators Kennedy, Gregg, and Murray is the product of an extensive bipartisan effort. It reflects significant input from the Department of Labor and Department of Education, as well as major stakeholders in job training, adult education, and vocational rehabilitation.

The workforce investment system may be fairly new, but we've already learned a great deal about its strengths and weaknesses. These lessons reinforce what I learned as a small business owner in Wyoming:

• Real opportunity in America comes from the small business sector;

• Economic development and workforce development go hand in hand;

• Rural areas face unique workforce development challenges;

• Washington cannot -- and should not -- determine state, local and individual workforce needs; and,

• Overly burdensome administrative requirements divert resources from serving customers.

Our bill improves upon the existing One-Stop Career Center delivery system to ensure that it can respond quickly and effectively to the changing needs of employers and workers in the new economy. Doing so will provide the 21st century workforce with the skills they will need for career opportunities in high-growth sectors. Our bill removes barriers in the law that have discouraged business involvement in workforce training, particularly small businesses. Our bill also removes barriers to access to services created by distance in many rural and frontier areas like Wyoming. This legislation will leverage technology to improve access to employment and training services in all areas of the country.

This legislation will also help keep the American Dream within the grasp of men and women alike by ensuring that men and women have access to jobs, education, and training that will lead to comparable pay.

Some states and localities have found creative ways to overcome the challenges imposed by current law. Wyoming has done a magnificent job with the resources they have been allotted, and I commend their ingenuity. With this legislation, we will give Wyoming and the other states and localities the tools they need to help the unemployed or underemployed find new or better jobs.

I want to thank Senator Kennedy, Senator Gregg, Senator Murray and the rest of my Colleagues on the Committee for all their work on this bipartisan bill. I also want to thank the Department of Labor and Department of Education for their assistance. I look forward to getting this bill into Conference and quickly enacting this vital legislation.

This legislation builds a bridge between the jobs of yesterday and the jobs of tomorrow. The bridge is a workforce investment system that is flexible, innovative, and responsive to the needs of employers – both large and small. At the other end of the bridge is the American dream, and good, solid careers for our Nation's workers.