Another Voice: Congress must give funding to workforce development | Opinion

Unemployed Americans are facing a glaringly overlooked hurdle in their job searches: thousands of businesses who used to employ them are permanently closed. And for these workers, the next job will almost certainly require new skills. The immediate need to provide unemployment assistance overlooks the reality that many jobs are forever gone.

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, the National Bureau of Economic Research reported in 2017 that hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost to advancements in automation – a trend that will continue to affect jobs as technologies continue to improve. According to the National Math and Science Initiative, 60% of new jobs in the 21st century will require skills that only 20% of the present workforce has attained. That means as many as 100 million workers will need to advance their skill set.

Last week, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Services reported that 16.3 million Americans are currently out of work. As job gains significantly decreased from June to July, unemployed Americans will require additional assistance in securing work that is available. According to a study conducted on behalf of the Strada Education Network in March, one-third of American workers believe they will need additional education to find a new job that is comparable to the one they lost.

To address the dramatic rise in lost jobs, and jobs that will need new skills when businesses reopen, we must invest and support local workforce development boards. There are more than 550 workforce development boards nationwide that operate more than 2,000 American Jobs Centers. Almost one in 12 American workers visit an American Jobs Center.

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