Public job training programs funded by the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) are now 40 years old. Since their inception, the programs have evolved from strong federal control to significant local autonomy, from narrowly targeted to broadly available services, and from prescribed training options to significant customer choice. The evolution has been marked by four distinct stages. The 1962 Manpower Development and Training Act (MDTA) provided funding administered by regional offices of USDOL directly to job training providers delivering classroom training in local areas. The first elements of decentralized decision making were introduced by the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA), which superceded MDTA in 1973. CETA required establishment of local administrative entities, called “prime sponsors, ” to coordinate programs and competitively finance training providers. MDTA and CETA each targeted job training services to economically disadvantaged workers and youth. CETA was supplanted by the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) in 1982. JTPA continued the decentralization trend that CETA had begun by significantly reducing the federal and state role and replacing it with a well-developed performance management system. JTPA was a results-driven job training program, which added dislocated workers as an eligible client group.
The Workforce Investment Act (WIA) of 1998 replaced JTPA. WIA retained local administration but created a customer focus to programs with universal access and a greater reliance on market mechanisms. It expanded the array of job training, education, and employment services that could be accessed by customers, and mandated that one-stop centers for employment services be created in every labor market throughout the country. Universal access to programs has welcomed a wide variety of customers into the system, many of whom are served through core and intensive services. The provision of training services changed radically with the introduction of vouchers (individual training accounts) to provide training, and choices limited to training providers certified as eligible by the local WIA administrator. To inform their choice, voucher recipients have access to performance information about potential training providers—including job placement rates—through a system of consumer reports on past performance of job training participants.
WIA included a sunset provision, with funding beyond five years after enactment of the original program requiring WIA reauthorization. The Bush administration proposed a number of incremental changes to the current program, the most important of which is the consolidation of all adult programs: