My Take: Something New to Smile About

Jane Alexander | August 1, 2014



By Jane Alexander, Deputy Editor

This month marks my 9th anniversary with Maintenance Technology. Flipping through copies of the magazines with which I’ve been involved for the past nine years is an uplifting experience for me. Our editorial team has done remarkable work—and intends to keep it up. From a personal standpoint, working with others to learn about and cover the many issues that impact the art and science of maintenance and reliability has made my job a real pleasure, as has watching end- users and suppliers work together to overcome the challenges that industry faces.

Some issues, though, including the gnawing skills crisis, have been a source of anguish. As I’ve heard, read, edited, emphasized and lost sleep over almost from the day I joined this publication, the skilled-workforce crisis has been a long time in the making, and could still get worse before it gets better.

Consequently, searching for the faintest hint of light at the end of a black tunnel has become an obsession. I like solutions. I also like problem-solvers who battle against odds to pull out wins for others.

The recent overwhelmingly bipartisan, bicameral passage of the 2014 Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA or “the Act”) is a good example. Created in the same spirit as the Skills Gap Strategy Act of 2013/2014 (covered earlier this year by Executive Editor Rick Carter), WIOA was signed into law by President Obama on July 22.

The WIOA is the first legislative reform of the public workforce system in 15 years. The Act’s very name makes you want to smile. What’s not to love about a successful effort that offers a semblance of hope around “innovation” and “opportunity” to a nation and its industries, as well as legions of unskilled and/or ill-prepared workers who want good jobs? And its creation and passage prove, despite what we’ve been led to believe, that members of the U.S. House and Senate can work together, regardless of political boundaries.

As detailed by the U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration (doleta.gov/WIOA), the newly enacted law “is designed to help job seekers access employment, education, training and support services to succeed in the labor market and to match employers with the skilled workers they need to compete in the global economy.” It’s about time. The system we’ve had in place until now hasn’t always been successful.

In a July 23 report, National Public Radio (NPR) summed up the WIOA as a way to fix “what was broke” (my words) by better matching training to employer needs. “It encourages more apprenticeships and on-the-job training,” said NPR’s Tamara Keith. “The measure of success will no longer be just how many people sign up for help, but also how many actually get jobs.”

Still, some people aren’t happy. You’ll find them trolling media-outlet Websites that had the temerity to congratulate Washington on finally getting its act together and passing this better-late-than-never legislation. That’s a much-need win for all of us.

Sure, in many respects, things remain bad all over. With so much turmoil and tragedy around the world, it can be difficult to find things to smile about. Enactment of the WIOA is one of them. It’s a start on a better future.

I agree with U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), a former community-college president who was instrumental in writing the 2014 WIOA. She was in attendance as the Act was signed into law. “Job training is so yesterday,” she observed, according to the NPR report. “Workforce development and skills development is tomorrow.” I say the same goes for working together. MT






Jane Alexander

Jane Alexander

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