Vice President Joe Biden, accompanied by New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, greets Enis Sullivan, 101, during his visit to XMA Corp. on March 25 in Manchester, N.H.
Something pretty remarkable happened Tuesday afternoon in a small windowless auditorium next door to the White House. President Obama signed a new law: the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.
It streamlines and updates the nation’s job training programs and was 11 years overdue. The bill got overwhelming bipartisan support in both the House and Senate.
“Folks in Congress got past their differences; they got a bill to my desk,” Obama said at the signing ceremony. “So this is not a win for Democrats or Republicans; it is a win for American workers.”
When an unemployed or dissatisfied worker seeks out job training through a government program, the hope is to get a new job in a field where workers are in demand. But the nation’s workforce development system hasn’t always succeeded in matching the training with the work.
The act aims to fix that by better matching training to employer needs. It encourages more apprenticeships and on-the-job training. The measure of success will no longer be just how many people sign up for help, but also how many actually get jobs.
At the same time Congress was working out the details of the bill, Vice President Joe Biden was traveling around the country, looking at what works and what doesn’t.
Back in March, he visited New Hampshire, where an innovative on-the-job training program has helped nearly 700 people get new jobs since 2010. There he stopped at XMA Corp., a small manufacturer that has hired about a half-dozen people so far using the program.
And Biden was clearly impressed. “We’re trying to replicate what you’re doing all over the country,” he told XMA workers.
The program targets the long-term unemployed and pays up to 90 percent of the employee’s salary while a company trains him or her to fill an opening. While at XMA, Biden met Brian Alexander, a design engineer with a big, scruffy beard and a story that probably sounds familiar.
The company where Alexander worked for more than a decade was taken over by a larger corporation.
“I got laid off,” he said. “They eliminated my position is what I was told.”
He had 40 years of experience, and eight months after losing his job, he was still unemployed.
“You know, I was basically almost ready to retire,” he said.