As new Labor secretary, Walsh can unstick the future of work
First published here in the Boston Business Journal
As President Joe Biden’s Labor secretary, Boston’s mayor Marty Walsh has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build a new and more equitable infrastructure for the future of workers.
The pandemic has taught us an exceptionally painful lesson: that our systems of learning and work are not equipped to facilitate the transition of large numbers of workers to jobs that are in demand. Millions of people are completely stuck, unable to access the relevant information, funding, advising, support, and skills training they need in order to advance. The bottom quarter of wage earners, or those making less than $27,000 a year, have lost almost 11 million jobs since April 2020, according to Harvard economist Raj Chetty.
If we can’t even help with one job change, how will we fare when the pace of technological change will require workers to transition and reskill many more times in the future?
No matter who we are today, or whether we already have a degree or a well-paying job, we will all become working learners, always flexing between working and learning. Ongoing skill development will become a way of life. So, how do we avoid the obstacles millions of Americans faced this spring and summer?
Walsh can start with a concerted investment in a federal data infrastructure centered on working learners. We need to invest now in a sort of “education GPS,” which helps Americans identify the education they need for fast-changing jobs.
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