Workforce Development

New Efforts in Congress to Recommend Solutions to Address Challenges Raised by the Future of Work

June 4, 2018  • Alastair Fitzpayne

Technological innovation is creating new work opportunities, altering job activities, and potentially eliminating jobs and even entire occupations. As we continue to see changes in the nature of work, policymakers should develop policies to ensure that American workers are prepared for the 21st century economy.

A recent report from the New Democrat Coalition Future of Work Task Force highlights a number of proposals that could help. The report, Closing the Skills and Opportunity Gaps, includes ideas to help students and workers acquire in-demand skills and reskill over the course of their careers. This agenda includes investments in STEM education, work-based learning, apprenticeships, and the development of soft skills like critical thinking, social skills, and management, among other approaches. The report also proposes two policies that the Future of Work Initiative has proposed: a Worker Training Tax Credit for businesses to increase their investments in worker training, and Lifelong Learning and Training Accounts to help workers acquire new skills and learning opportunities over the course of their careers. The Task Force will continue to explore these topics in a series focused on the opportunities and challenges related to the changing nature of work.

This report comes in the midst of significant activity and interest in Congress for reskilling and lifelong learning. Members of Congress have formed a variety of bipartisan groups, such as the Congressional 21st Century Skills Caucus and the Congressional Career and Technical Education Caucus, to explore the ways in which policymakers can help workers develop the necessary skills to succeed in the jobs of the future. Additionally, Congressional committees have recently held hearings that aim to examine measures that the public and private sector could take to reskill the workforce. Last month, the House Committee on Ways and Means held a hearing on Jobs and Opportunity: Legislative Options to Address the Jobs Gap, and the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development hosted a hearing, Closing the Skills Gap: Private sector solutions for America’s workforce.

The future is uncertain, and the challenges facing policymakers, businesses, and workers are complex. Policymakers, workforce boards, business, education institutions, and nonprofits must work together to help American workers adapt to the rapidly changing economy. We are encouraged that Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle are actively exploring these topics and developing potential policy solutions.