It’s time for leaders across the country to focus on jobs.
We know what it can look like when you hear news of labor shortages, see fast food signs offering potential employees up to $20 an hour, and see the rate of national unemployment fall below 4%.
The nation’s recovery has been disorderly; jobs seem plentiful, but workers remain hard to find, the supply chain is still struggling to catch up, and inflation threatens all gains.
More importantly, we cannot afford to lose sight of the bigger picture in the years to come. The economy continues to change rapidly and all of the extraordinary shocks of the past two years could turn into larger, long-term systemic changes. Before the pandemic, many middle class jobs were being lost to automation – a trend that has only been exacerbated by the realities of a post-COVID economy.
If the United States fails to meet the demand for more skilled workers, other countries will gain. China, in particular, has been planning and competing on this front for years. And as supply chain issues continue, those left behind will be those who are always left behind: working families.
While we may not always agree, we recognize the urgent need to prioritize workforce development. Dallas is starting that conversation now, as evidenced by Mayor Johnson’s appointment of the city’s first-ever Labor Czar and Rep. Van Duyne’s focus on returning more than $20 million to the local small businesses, as well as hosting a nationally recognized job fair last year. This conversation needs to be elevated to the top of the agenda, both locally and nationally. The future will belong to cities, states and countries that focus on workforce development.
Adult education and worker development are among the most important and least discussed issues of our time. Today’s focus on clickbait and sexy headlines means that discussions of housing, health care costs and inflation rarely address strategies to increase opportunity and income.
Housing affordability debates focus far too much on government subsidies for housing and not enough on helping people increase their earning potential so they can afford to buy or rent properties. housing at market price. In this way, workforce development could be the most sustainable and effective affordable housing program that exists today.
Conversations about raising the minimum wage don’t address ways to help people leave minimum wage jobs and move into career paths that can support them and their families for years to come. coming.
As the former and current mayor of the booming Dallas area, we have seen the challenges and observed the struggles that working families face. For us, a new focus on workforce development is about unlocking Dallas’ potential and making Texas Miracle something even more expansive.
And while our political parties may differ on the approach to solving these problems, we can both agree that any one-federal solution will miss the mark. Every city’s workforce issues are unique, and the local entities closest to the people they serve are best equipped to come together and address the challenges facing their communities.
This is why we need local and regional governments, non-profit organizations, educational institutions and private sector employers to come together and better coordinate workforce development efforts. And we need the federal government to focus on strengthening proven, data-driven programs and methods and facilitating discussions about workforce development in cities and towns across the country.
We believe that Dallas, with its booming economy and strong community, can serve as a national role model. But all cities, both parties, and national and state leaders should seize the moment now. Because while employment numbers look good today, the competition for the future has already begun.
Beth Van Duyne is a United States Representative for the 24th District of Texas. Eric Johnson is the 60th mayor of Dallas, Texas.