U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo addressed labor market challenges in a conversation with Ford School economics professor Betsey Stevenson. She noted the vast number of people and agencies within the Department of Commerce – nearly 47,000 employees in offices including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Census Bureau – and said the through line for all of them is a focus “on enhancing America’s ability to compete in the world.” However, improving the country’s competitiveness is not just for the bottom line; it's about improving the lives of ordinary Americans.
“The U.S. can’t compete in the world if right now one-third of people who live in rural America don’t have access to the internet,” she said.
Raimondo, a child of a manufacturing family, related to her time as Governor when discussing the need to provide better assistance for those who lose their jobs by technology. “I used about $50 million of our federal stimulus money and created an applied job training initiative. We had thousands we were able to put to work, former bartenders or retail clerks or bank tellers who became cyber technicians, digital backbone jobs, inside sales for Salesforce or Adobe or Microsoft.”
She called for a change in the way the U.S. trains its workers to enhance labor mobility. “Folks that are looking for a job now don’t have the skills for the jobs that are open. More investments in career and technical education in high school, much broader use of apprenticeships, and a much better job helping people to continue to be educated in their career,” is going to be required, according to Raimondo.