Worker Rights, Training Must Be Addressed
The best way to rebuild economy and a strong middle class. Wisconsin and nation must do more.
Once upon a time, Wisconsin was a shining beacon for workers’ rights, leading our nation with policies that protected workers’ safety, encouraged fair wages and promoted a relationship between employees and employers rooted in shared prosperity. Unfortunately, over the decades, too many leaders disregarded that proud history in favor of policies that undermined opportunities for workers and the needs of their employers. COVID-19 exposed and accelerated the impact of those policies. As our state emerges from the pandemic, it’s time to take stock of how we can grow a workforce development model that provides genuine opportunity for all in a 21st century economy.
A critical component of this model is training. Historically, jobseekers were expected to invest their own time and money to meet the competency needs and skill demands of employers. This was a viable arrangement when employer needs remained static over long periods of time. Today, however, the skills workers are required to have evolve at a much faster pace. Jobseekers often cannot keep up with the necessary upskilling that employers require to remain competitive and responsive to regional and global markets.
On average, the U.S. spends just one-fifth of other advanced economies on workforce and labor market programs. To ensure economic competitiveness and prosperity for businesses and workers alike, we need a greater investment in training. Strategies that create affordable adult-based learning opportunities accessible to working parents, along with high-quality, rapid skills trainings responsive to employer needs pay enormous dividends.
As our state and our nation recover from the devastating challenges of a deadly pandemic, an economic crisis, and a reckoning on race that reveals deep disparities, we need to work together to recognize that our workers are the most valuable resource. Empowering them with the tools and policies necessary to flourish will build an economy that works for every person and industry.
This means funding high quality training and skill-building programs to educate, support and build the next generation of pre-apprentices, apprentices and journey workers who will renew and reinvigorate the union workforce essential for a strong middle class.
Together, we can build back a stronger, more resilient, and equitable Wisconsin that provides new opportunities for workers and the companies that employ them.