In a New York Times op-ed, Robert Rubin makes the case for a federal jobs initiative, citing the success of LISC’s work readiness programs in connecting people to the workforce and the reins of economic opportunity. A national approach should be seen not “as a social program but as a public investment with a high rate of return,” wrote Rubin--and as an imperative for the health of our economy and society. We couldn’t agree more.
The excerpt below is from:
Why the U.S. Needs a Federal Jobs Program, Not Payouts
by Robert Rubin, New York Times
Last winter, a Detroit woman seeking financial stability walked into a local job-readiness center, supported by a national community development nonprofit called LISC. She enrolled in an eight-week job-preparedness program that taught her the skills needed to land an apprenticeship in the building trades. Seven months, four certifications and a union card later, the woman, Tiffany, is working full-time — with benefits — as a millwright apprentice, installing and repairing factory machinery. She finds the work fulfilling and is up for a raise in a few months.
The need to help people like Tiffany, who did not want her last name used, will grow only more acute: Job dislocation and wage pressure caused by rapid technological development and globalization are likely to persist for a long time. These forces can contribute powerfully to productivity and growth, but they have worsened problems in our economy, from stagnant wages to the lack of opportunities for those with less education.
Too many people lack access to entry-level jobs with good wages, especially in industries like manufacturing, where activity is actually near a high. The reason is that technology has enabled this work to be done by far fewer employees — or it’s not being done at all, because workers don’t have the specialized skills certain jobs demand.
That’s where a robust federal jobs program could help. Millions of Americans could work in high-need areas rebuilding and repairing crumbling roads and bridges or taking care of the elderly. The jobs should pay a living wage (even during the training phase), come with good benefits and be widely available, including to the formerly incarcerated. The program could include both public jobs and subsidized private employment, either temporary or longer-term. The jobs would provide credentials and hard and soft skills through on-the-job training, which could then facilitate a transition into unsubsidized private-sector employment. We should also invest in more vocational training and apprenticeships, like the one Tiffany landed.
Though public jobs programs are associated with Democrats, Kevin Hassett, chairman of the Trump administration’s Council of Economic Advisers, recently backed the idea, creating the possibility of bipartisan support.
Public employment should be viewed not as a social program but as a public investment with a high rate of return. The return is increased economic output, coupled with the development of human capital — which increases productivity and the size of the effective labor force — in a population and economy that badly need it. That human capital, in turn, could catalyze more business investment and activity in low-income neighborhoods, which would further promote economic growth. Continued [+]...