Business Roundtable Says An “Ever-Ready” Workforce Is an Unstoppable Workforce
Late last year, Republicans and Democrats on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce introduced and passed the Bipartisan Workforce Pell Act and A Stronger Workforce for America Act. This legislation will help give workers new skills, expand pathways to successful careers, and meet the needs of our economy, and Business Roundtable applauds the bipartisan effort to pass it.
Workers today are navigating a rapidly changing economy. Technology and innovation are constantly creating demand for new skills. America needs a workforce that is ready today and can acclimate to future changes. The foundation of an “ever-ready” workforce is a commitment to fostering continuous learning, adaptability and new ways to meet the ever-evolving realities of the economy and work. Sound public policy that takes into account business and industry needs is key to ensuring an ever-ready workforce.
For example, the Bipartisan Workforce Pell Act would allow Pell Grants to be available for individuals seeking high-quality, short-term programs that provide skills demanded by employers, opening new doors to employment and advancement for millions of Americans.
The bipartisan A Stronger Workforce for America Act would make important reforms to the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), the cornerstone of our nation’s workforce development system, which has evolved over the years but continues to be burdened by inefficiency and ineffectiveness. For example, the House Committee-passed bill directs that more WIOA funding be targeted at skills development programs to prepare more workers for in-demand careers. Critically, the bill also seeks to provide states more flexibility to administer these programs and engage businesses to design programs that improve employment and earnings for more Americans.
Opening pathways for employment and advancement is more important than ever, with a historically tight labor market, a shrinking working-age population and historically low workforce participation. A lack of accountability in workforce development is also contributing to subpar outcomes and a disconnect between training programs and employers’ needs. This deficiency intensifies the skills gap, posing increased challenges for employers who are looking for candidates with the requisite skills for sought-after positions.
Legislation to reform public workforce development programs will complement the significant efforts many companies are taking to build a world-class modern workforce.
For example, some business leaders are working directly with higher education institutions to connect students to pathways for in-demand careers, including through the Business Roundtable Workforce Partnership Initiative. In the manufacturing industry, Novelis, a Roundtable member company, is establishing partnerships with community colleges like Hopkinsville Community College in Kentucky to help position students for fulfilling careers.
Companies are also offering work-based learning opportunities– a win-win for individuals and businesses. In Wisconsin, Milwaukee-headquartered Rockwell Automation and Manpower Group developed an Academy of Advanced Manufacturing, which is equipping veterans with the technical and workplace skills needed to fill in-demand manufacturing jobs.
In Illinois, Accenture and Aon are leading the Chicago Apprenticeship Network of over 100 Chicago companies committed to creating or expanding 1,900 apprenticeships for in-demand technology jobs in cybersecurity, data analytics and software engineering, business operations and more. At IBM, tech job seekers can earn college credits through its IBM Mainframe System Administrator and Cybersecurity Analyst apprenticeship programs. Additionally, through its Aviate Academy, United Airlines offers training and pathways for pilots, while its Calibrate Apprenticeship program provides hands-on experience and training for United technicians.
Many companies are working together to address workforce challenges through Business Roundtable Corporate Initiatives. For example, companies like Bank of America, Land O’Lakes and over 75 others, are participating in the Multiple Pathways Initiative to reform their hiring and talent management practices to emphasize the value of skills, not just degrees. The Apprenticeship Accelerator brings companies together to expand apprenticeship programs to help address their workforce needs and expand career pathways for more Americans, including through strategies and partnerships at the state level. Employers also recognize that talent exists among the 80 million Americans with a criminal record; Eaton and JPMorgan Chase & Co. co-chair the Second Chance Business Coalition of large employers promoting the benefits of second chance employment.
An ever-ready workforce is a necessity for businesses and the economy, and Business Roundtable CEOs will continue to do their part to ensure America is equipped with one. By investing in continuous learning, fostering adaptability and collaborating across sectors, together business leaders and policymakers can build a workforce that is not just prepared for today’s challenges but also resilient and ready to jump future hurdles.
Business Roundtable strongly supports bipartisan efforts like the Bipartisan Workforce Pell Act and A Stronger Workforce for America Act to enhance innovation and opportunity in the workplace. America’s business leaders urge Congress to act on these important pieces of legislation. The time for an ever-ready workforce is now.