Skills, Jobs, and Opportunity at the 2020 National Skills Summit

In early February, the AnitaB.org team attended the National Skills Summit in Washington, D.C., an annual gathering of federal, state, and local stakeholders concerned about investing in the American workforce. This is the annual event of the National Skills Coalition, which advocates year-round for greater resources for American workers to pursue the skills and workforce training they need to succeed. 

The conference elevated conversations about the state of the U.S. workforce and various legislation before Congress that would make it easier for individuals to get the resources and training they need to secure jobs that move them up the socioeconomic ladder.  

Many of the legislation being proposed focuses on the importance of partnerships in crafting quality, timely skills development programs. Through partnerships forged between community colleges, private industry, workforce development boards, and other stakeholders, pipelines can be created that both equip employers with the skilled workforce they need, while providing the training individuals require for the future of work. Conversations on the reauthorization of two major workforce-related bills rose to the top of our radar — the National Apprenticeship Act and Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act (WIOA).  

The National Apprenticeship Act would provide a long-overdue update to the Nation’s apprenticeship system. Apprenticeships can be valuable work-based learning experiences outside of the “traditional” four-year college pathway, fostering the requisite technical skills needed to thrive in an increasingly tech-enabled workforce. Advocates are pushing for critical updates during reauthorization, including expanded resources for apprentices to receive wraparound services. 

WIOA lays the groundwork for the U.S. workforce system, including American Job Centers and job training and resources for low-income adults and youth. While it received a major overhaul six years ago, many are already considering the ways in which it can be more responsive to the needs of job seekers and employers on the ground in an ever-changing workforce landscape. 

Why it Matters 

At the end of the day, one of the things that matters most to everyone is the ability to get a job that provides them with economic mobility and the ability provide for themselves and their families. While unemployment remains low, many of today’s jobs have wages that struggle to keep pace with the rising costs of child care, healthcare, and education. Yet, as technological advancements continue, many well paid roles go unfilled. 

Opportunities to develop new skills and pursue new jobs are especially relevant for women in the face of growing automation, which some research has shown will displace more women in work compared to men. While you’ve perhaps never considered pursuing an apprenticeship, it’s important to recognize the value these onramps to work provide. 

What’s Next 

While many of these workforce bills are being discussed and iterated in Congress, 2020 remains an election year. That means there’s only a small change these bills will be signed into law this year. The good news is that there’s time to influence the way these various pieces of legislation are written to take into account the points of view of technical women and aspiring technologists. Furthermore, this is a critical time to ensure elected officials and candidates know that workforce issues matter to their constituents. 

Check out the AnitaB.org 2020 Election Toolkit for ideas on how to elevate your priorities around women in the technical workforce. 

Read up on the myriad legislation aiming to strengthen the opportunities workers have to pursue technical skills and jobs, and let your policymakers know this is an issue that matters to you. 

Interested in learning more about workforce development policy? Let us know at PolicyEngage@anitab.org 

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