7 Ways the House Build Back Better Act Gets Workforce Development Right
Workforce development has been a key pillar of the Biden economic agenda. It’s no wonder why — the United States spends a paltry one-fifth of what other advanced economies put towards workforce and labor market programs.1 Boosting our investment would dramatically improve economic resilience during crises, support dislocated workers and the long-term unemployed, and help reskill workers for the jobs of the future while increasing diversity and equity.
Realizing this, the House Education and Labor Committee just made a big commitment to upgrading our nation’s workforce development system. As part of the Build Back Better Act’s reconciliation process, the committee just allocated $80 billion for a wide range of initiatives that serve core workforce development efforts as well as newer ones that reflect the current economic landscape. Here’s a breakdown of the bill’s topline details:
Upon closer examination of the House bill, there are seven reasons to applaud this investment:
- Provides critical resources to expand apprenticeships. In allocating $6 billion to expand the registered apprenticeships system, the committee placed financial muscle behind President Biden’s proposals to significantly improve and bolster a proven earn-and-learn model that provides workers with strong pathways to sustainable, livable occupations. Further, funding will go to support the use of intermediaries which bring workers, educators, and employers together to expand and strengthen the apprenticeship system.
- Helps adults retrain. While an increasing number of jobs and skills are becoming obsolete due to structural trends including automation, new skills will be necessary to fill the more than 11.9 million jobs projected to be created in the coming decade.2 And across many industries, the pandemic has accelerated the pace by which certain skills become obsolete by more than 70%.3 To face these kinds of challenges, lawmakers allocated $15 billion towards adult worker employment and training activities and $16 billion for dislocated worker employment and training activities.
- Strengthens the link between industry, workers, and educators. The $12 billion investment in industry and sector partnerships will support not only the registered apprenticeship system, but also broader workforce development efforts among employers in the same industry, including expanding opportunities for high-skill, high-wage, and in-demand occupations.4
- Brings justice-involved individuals back into the workforce. The committee appropriated $3.6 billion for re-entry employment opportunities to help the more than 6.7 million justice-involved individuals across the country increase their economic outcomes and gain a stronger foothold in their local communities.
- Provides support for workers in the care industry. Along with accelerating the erosion of many low-income jobs and industries, the pandemic highlighted the economic plight of our country’s care workers. In recognition of this vital sector’s role in our economy, the committee appropriated $1.48 billion in grants for the direct care workforce.
- Prioritizes equity. In the American Jobs Plan, President Biden called for much-needed investments to advance racial and gender equity in the workforce. Whether to diversify the registered apprenticeship system, or to equip intermediaries with funding to increase equity in the workforce, the committee included provisions throughout the workforce markup intended to create a more diverse labor force across both existing and emerging industries. For example, half of the funds appropriated for registered apprenticeships will be dedicated to entities serving a high number of individuals with historical barriers to employment.
- Includes wrap-around support. Research and field evidence continually show that wrap-around services, including subsidized social services, child care, and transportation, are among several ways the federal government can effectively support workers while completing training programs. In recognition of these vital resources, House lawmakers have reserved $10.9 billion from the Dislocated Worker and Adult Training categories for career and supportive services.
As negotiations continue on the Build Back Better Act reconciliation bill, policymakers must remember that our workforce and economic indicators point towards an urgent need for a robust workforce development investment. We hope the final bill can arrive at the same consensus as the House and President Biden on the importance of prioritizing skills, increasing post-secondary opportunities, boosting economic outcomes, and bolstering our country’s workforce at such a critical juncture.
“Fact sheet: The American Jobs Plan.” White House, 31 Mar. 2021. https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/03/31/fact-sheet-the-american-jobs-plan/. Accessed 9 Sept. 2021.
“Employment Projections 2020-2030” Bureau of Labor Statistics, 8 Sept. 2021. https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/03/31/fact-sheet-the-american-jobs-plan/. Accessed 9 Sept. 2021.
Groysberg, Boris and Katherine Connolly Baden. “Pandemic has sped up pace that some work skills become obsolete by 70 percent, survey finds.” Newsweek 14 Sept. 2021. https://www.newsweek.com/2021/10/08/pandemic-has-sped-pace-that-some-work-skills-become-obsolete-70-percent-survey-finds-1628468.html. Accessed 13 Sept. 2021.
United States, Congress, House. Build Back Better Act, Title II – Committee on Education and Labor. Congress.gov, https://docs.house.gov/meetings/ED/ED00/20210909/114029/BILLS-117-CommitteePrint2-S000185-Amdt-1.pdf. 117th Congress, 1st session, Markup held 9 Sept. 2021.