On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives approved bipartisan legislation intended to improve federal job training programs with a vote of 415 to 6. An amended version was adopted by the Senate 95 to 3.

Reauthorizing Bill Clinton's 1998 Workforce Investment Act, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, was praised by U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson (N.Y.-19) because many of the programs included in the act serve upstate New Yorkers.

"This legislation makes it easier for New York to provide the training programs we need to put people to work rebuilding our energy and transportation infrastructure, producing our food, and providing care for our loved ones," Gibson declared in a press release. "We cannot grow the Upstate economy and keep our young people closer to home without making strategic investments in career and vocational education."

Each state governor is awarded their share of the $3 billion rollout to establish statewide partnerships, which are also driven by private dollars. Each state will have to submit a unified state plan in accordance with the law. In 2013, the New York WIA allocated roughly $42.5 million across 33 regions.

In Rensselaer and Washington Counties, a recent soft skills training pilot representing seven companies involved 122 participants. The region's WIA also developed a career ladder model to meet the needs of businesses and educators, created a business to school consortium study and more.

The new legislation is designed to streamline training services by eliminating 15 duplicative WIA programs and creating new performance standards, reducing administrative costs for states and attempting to improve transparency and accountability.

WIOA is intended to strengthen youth services by focusing on at-risk students and dropouts, building community connections to develop work-based learning opportunities, incentivizing pay-for-performance contracts and promoting a strategic state job training strategy by identifying those who face barriers in employment, education or disabilities.

For a list of New York Workforce One-Stop Career Centers and their contact information, visit http://www.medcerts.com/new_york_wia_workforce_centers.php. For more about Vermont's current WIA programs, visit http://labor.vermont.gov/workforce-development/workforce-investment-act/. See an analysis of WIOA by the House Education and Workforce Committee at http://edworkforce.house.gov/skillsact/.

Contact Tom Momberg at tmomberg@benningtonbanner.com. Follow him on Twitter @TomMomberg