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It’s time for states to take the lead in getting Americans back to work

women job loss nonfarm payroll workforce men million jobs unemployment net gain cnn department of labor bureau of labor statistics

As supply of vaccinations slowly exceeds demand in the U.S., the wheels of Big Business have begun to turn once again, and the job market is making a slow, but steady, recovery. Even so, millions of Americans remain unemployed, and the technological need across virtually every industry in the country will soon outpace the workers available to address it.

With federal spending bound to decrease as we recover from the worst of the economical and physical effects of the coronavirus, states have the perfect opportunity to step in. As we move out of survival mode and turn our attention to spurring economic growth nationwide, states can seize the opportunity to invest in their communities and support re-skilling efforts on a more localized basis.

Since the pandemic began, faced with the enormity of this public health crisis, politicians from both sides of the aisle came together to approve over $5 trillion in federal aid for citizens and businesses. To put that number into context, the federal government spent a combined $4.4 trillion in Fiscal Year 2019.

As the recovery continues, and as the mantle is passed from the federal government to state and local governments, a more localized approach to re-skilling offers an opportunity to leave a lasting mark on the American workforce, helping us to emerge from the pandemic stronger than before and ready to tackle the challenges that lie ahead.

But deliberate and bold choices will need to be made to seize the opportunity that presents itself amid the current crisis. States that invest in re-skilling their workforce will not only lower unemployment rates and boost their own economies, but also enhance their competitive advantage by laying the foundation for decades to come. 

With millions of people across the country still filing for unemployment, states have the opportunity to spend less and benefit more overall by investing in programs that help get people back on their feet and into the tech jobs that most industries are desperate to fill. According to a Pew Research Center survey, nearly half of those who are currently unemployed, furloughed or temporarily laid off are pessimistic about their prospects for the future, and most have seriously considered changing fields or occupations since becoming unemployed. 

Investing in re-skilling will also strengthen a state’s technological capabilities, feeding the demand of local businesses that previously struggled to secure the necessary tech talent. When Amazon decided on the location of its second headquarters, its ultimate decision rested in the concentration of tech workers already in place locally. Who’s to say the next Apple or Microsoft command post won’t be chosen the same way?

It’s important to note that for anyone displaced and seeking to re-enter the workforce, regardless of the hoped-for actions of state governments, individuals shouldn’t rely solely on outside forces to steer them onto a new path. Ultimately, our lives and our careers are in our own hands. It’s up to us to find our best path forward. While many jobs may come back, just as many or more will not. This past year has provided the clarity and motivation for so many to change their careers and their circumstances, and with so many opportunities available in tech, Americans can and should find in this crisis the opportunity to make a change.

As we transition to a new phase of the pandemic recovery, the baton has been passed; it’s now up to state governments to lead the transformation of the American workforce. One way to do so is by supporting local corporations as they seek to activate their workforce and invest in employee re-skilling. 

Going a step further, state governments can incentivize this shift towards technological re-skilling by acting as resource stewards and by using this opportunity to create accessible and inclusive pathways to opportunity. By investing in re-skilling for jobs in tech, states can also create effective and lasting methods to tackle challenges of societal inequality — technology skills are a powerful driver of economic and social mobility. 

We have already begun to emerge from this crisis, but there are miles to go before we sleep. The choices we make today will reverberate through our present and future, so we must choose and invest wisely and make the most of the opportunity in front of us. There is no question that technology is the future, or that the economy needs a serious boost. The only questions that remain are whether states will now assume the lead in driving this fundamental reform and bring us out of this economic downturn stronger and more resilient for the future; and which states will seize this opportunity to race to the front of the pack. 

Anthony Hughes is CEO of Tech Elevator, a coding bootcamp with locations nationwide.

Tags Amazon coronavirus coronavirus recovery Microsoft Unemployment

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