In the next two years, Republicans and Democrats will work together in harmony to create a bill to benefit all Americans. The issue of workforce development carries enough bipartisan appeal to have a fighting chance. Just last year, a four-person team of bipartisan senators introduced a joint resolution to declare September “National Workforce Development Month.” Though it’s more of a symbolic step, it suggests that officials on both sides of the aisle still want what’s best for American workers.
The federal government has a variety of opportunities to push workforce development in the United States. Right now, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) is in the driver’s seat. The act seeks to provide skills-based and employer-led training programs to people looking for better career paths.
WIOA has been moderately effective, but it doesn’t do enough to prepare job seekers for a new digital reality. Some states are picking up the slack with policies that encourage more students to pursue degrees and programs in science, technology and related fields. This is an excellent plan to build talent pipelines and provide businesses with access to more qualified candidates in the near future.
Universities can’t do this alone, though. They need more resources and funding to provide students with a comprehensive educational experience. Increased investments to spur improvements in this area—from modernized facilities to in-depth faculty training—could help local employers hire more workers from nearby schools.
Unfortunately, many traditional educational institutions don’t have the funding or agility to evolve curriculums quickly enough to keep up with industry trends. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and other federal aid can help states and local communities bridge the gap.
Speed is key to government intervention in labor demand. By working on these issues now, the U.S. will not only chip away at the tech talent gap, but also get ahead of the workforce development issues looming on the horizon.
Our country is at an inflection point. If this issue is approached correctly, we could flip the skill sets of the workforce and drive the economy for the coming decades. If the government fails to provide adequate retraining and apprenticeship opportunities, though, the tech talent gap will continue to widen as workers pushed out of longtime roles wonder what they could have done differently.
Workforce development isn’t a sexy political issue, but it is a bipartisan one. Americans need jobs, and to get those jobs, they need opportunities to develop skills that will help them fulfill the roles of the future.
The decision to invest in workforce development should be a no-brainer for Republicans and Democrats alike. In a short-term future that looks to be defined by argument and gridlock, this issue should be one area where both sides can agree on what’s best for the future of the nation.