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As the nation debates the need for stimulus to help the economy recover, it is critical to put in place policies that will create an equitable recovery. Raising overall economic activity will not equally distribute opportunity nor provide the relief needed to communities hit hardest by the crisis. The jobs that are created must be good jobs, and workers need support to secure those jobs, including increased access to effective education and training. To position the economy for an equitable long-term recovery, ambitious public investments are needed to create jobs with good wages and benefits, and major complementary investments in adult education and training are necessary to provide the support workers need to emerge from the crisis equipped for high quality jobs.
Without bold, complementary investments in a new adult training system, many of the most vulnerable workers will not be able to access good jobs and current inequalities will deepen—particularly along racial lines.
As economic activity resumes over time, workers will return to a labor market that has permanently changed. Many of the jobs that have been lost will not come back. Workers will be forced to seek new opportunities in an economy where more consumers are relying on e-commerce, more businesses are adopting automation, and more people are teleworking. Many of the jobs that return will look fundamentally different and require new skills as workers navigate the transition from an industrial to a digital economy. For example, good jobs in sectors like construction now require significant technical training and home health aides use digital tools in their daily work.
To address the challenges presented above, a new framework for education and training policy would meet four objectives:
1. All unemployed and low-wage workers can afford effective training that will lead to a good job
2. Employers provide work-based training opportunities and improve job quality
3. An adequate supply of effective education and training options are available, including online programs
4. Workers have the information, guidance, and support needed to navigate the job market, training options, and pathways to economic security
Goal 1: All unemployed and low-wage workers can afford the training programs that will lead to good jobs and wage increases
Many unemployed and low-income workers cannot access or afford effective career-oriented education and training programs that would help them secure good jobs in the economy that emerges. Community colleges and other training providers are struggling to maintain operations in the face of huge budget cuts and social distancing restrictions. Effective programs—including those delivered online—are unaffordable or inaccessible to too many workers, while many available training programs are ineffective and do not lead to good jobs.
Goal 2: Employers provide work-based training opportunities and improve job quality
Public funding dedicated to helping employers meet their talent needs is not sufficiently tied to employers’ commitments to creating good quality jobs, instead spending taxpayer dollars to help employers train people for low-wage work. Current programs are not designed to address the bias or discrimination in the education system or labor market that makes it harder for people of color to access good jobs.
Goal 3: An adequate supply of effective education and training options are available, including online programs
Social distancing has required many in-person programs to be cancelled or switched to online settings. Many adults are balancing new work and childcare arrangements that limit their ability to learn in person. The result has been an increase in demand for non-traditional and online learning options that give people the opportunity to quickly adapt to rapidly changing economic conditions. Despite the demand for online learning to be a greater part of the training landscape, gaps persist that will limit an equitable recovery if not addressed.
Goal 4: Workers have the information, guidance, and support needed to navigate the job market, training options, and pathways to economic security
The public workforce coaching system only has the resources to serve a fraction of those who need help. Those who do receive support will encounter a system that prioritizes immediate placement into any job, rather than providing the information, resources, and support to access quality jobs and the training needed that will provide economic security and mobility over the course of their career.