An Agenda for President Biden and Congress

By Rachel Unruh, November 09, 2020

With 72 days until America’s 46th president takes the oath of office, National Skills Coalition released Skills for an Inclusive Economic Recovery: An Agenda for President Biden and Congress. The agenda includes specific federal policy proposals that would help achieve the Skills for an Inclusive Economic Recovery call to action that NSC released in September.

The federal agenda includes legislative proposals that Congress could enact immediately. NSC also sent to the President Elect’s transition team a set of memos with proposals that could be enacted administratively within his first 100 days in office. Together, these actionable proposals could help make the goals of Biden’s Build Back Better agenda a reality by addressing the pandemic’s structural changes to the labor market and historical inequities.

“Let’s build back better by including everyone,” said Andy Van Kleunen, NSC’s CEO. “That means ensuring people’s essential needs are met while they train for newly created jobs, new industries and technologies. It means investing in the people most impacted by the pandemic, and making sure that they are better off as our economy improves.”

The COVID recession has disproportionately impacted Black, Latino, Indigenous, and immigrant workers, particularly women, as well as people with a high school diploma or less. These impacts are the result of a history of structural racism and public policies that undermine the aspirations of working people who want to train for a better job. For small businesses, the pandemic has likewise levied disparate impact on locally own firms compared to large international corporations.

“We have a history of economic recovery strategies that pick winners and losers rather than creating real pathways to prosperity for everyone,” said Van Kleunen. “We can’t train our way out of this recession, nor can skills policy shoulder alone the weight of a more inclusive economy. But we absolutely cannot build back better without a set of generation defining investments in our people.”

NSC’s Agenda for President Biden and Congress puts forward concrete policy changes that could advance an inclusive recovery in which workers and businesses most impacted by this recession, as well as workers previously held back by structural barriers of discrimination or opportunity, are empowered to equitably participate in and benefit from economic expansion and restructuring. These include:

  • Enacting a 21st Century Reemployment Accord for all workers, including expanded access to training, expanded income assistance and support services, and support for a national network of industry partnerships.

  • Supporting new investments in incumbent worker training, with a particular focus on upskilling and reskilling frontline workers who have played such an important role in keeping our economy going during this crisis, but may need new skills or credentials to adapt to changing technology or other economic disruptions.

  • Investing in training as part of any job creation efforts, including building into any infrastructure package, a new $20 billion Workforce Trust Fund and incentives to train and hire women and people of color who have been excluded and underrepresented in the past.

  • Investing in partnerships between community colleges, businesses (including small and medium sized businesses) and other key stakeholders to develop meaningful pathways for workers to enter into and advance in critical industries, with a particular focus on addressing racial equity gaps within target occupations and industries.

NSC’s memos for the President Elect’s transition team include calls for immediate administrative action to enact:

  • An interagency sub-taskforce on Skills for an inclusive Economic Recovery as part of a White House-led Economic Recovery Task Force. The sub-taskforce would be charged with addressing racial and other equity gaps in education and employment outcomes from workforce investments.

  • Appointing a new Assistant Secretary for Community and Technical Colleges at the Department of Education who would be responsible for spearheading the Biden Administration’s ambitious goals to provide up to two years of tuition-free community college for working adults and other students

  • Creating a new interagency Digital Skills for a Digital Age task force, led by the Departments of Education, Labor, and Commerce, which would identify strategies to better support digital literacy through existing federal programs while providing the White House with recommendations for new investments needed to ensure that the 48 million US workers with limited or no digital literacy skills can succeed in today’ economy

NSC will analyze and share opportunities to advance these and other proposals in our Agenda for President Biden and Congress during the upcoming webinar, Breaking Down the Election: Prospects for Skills and Inclusive Recovery. Register here.

You can also hear more about NSC’s Skills for an Inclusive Economic Recovery framework in an interview with NSC CEO Andy Van Kleunen on the latest episode of Skilled America podcast.