The Covid-19 pandemic has had wide-ranging impacts on American businesses and workers – with women, workers of color, immigrants, and workers without a college degree facing disproportionate effects. As Congress embarks on new invest­ments in economic recovery through proposals such as the American Jobs Plan (AJP) and the American Families Plan (AFP), it is crucial to address inequities through policies that explicitly center equity. 

The accelerated adoption of new digital technologies during the pandemic has greatly increased the urgency of investing in digital skills. Across the manufacturing; health and social work; construction transportation and storage; and retail and hospitality sectors, many businesses and organizations have fast forwarded through 10 years of planned technological change in less than a year   

Retail shops, restaurants, hotels, hospitals, medical testing companies, and other businesses today need workers at every level to have flexible, adapt­able digital skills that equip them to confidently use new tools. 

Our series on Digital Equity for an Inclusive Economic Recovery is sponsored by Microsoft; and explores how federal policy and public investment can equip businesses and workers for today’s digital demands in four sectors: retail and hospitality; manufacturing, health & social work; and construction and transportation and makes recommendations on federal policies and investments including: 

  • Pass the Digital Equity Act and invest in new Digital Literacy Upskilling Grants as part of any infrastructure or economic recovery investment. 
  • Update the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act to include high-quality digital skills training for incumbent workers, especially those in small businesses. 
  • Invest in industry or sector partnerships that bring together multiple firms in the same industry along with an education and workforce partner as part of any economic recovery investments. 
  • Expand access to Pell grants for high-quality, short-term programs, consistent with the JOBS Act. 

These recommendations reflect feedback from our four Industry Recovery Panels, where digital equity was a top concern shared across industries. By enacting these recommendations, Congress can modernize workforce development investments to reflect real-time needs.