Durbin, Warnock, Schneider to Introduce Bill to Invest in American Workforce

A recent report found that automation will pose a risk to close to 900,000 jobs in Illinois The legislation will support training programs to ensure workers are not left behind as automation accelerates

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA), along with U.S. Representative Brad Schneider (D-IL-10), today introduced bicameral legislation that increases federal investments in worker training and helps prepare workers for the jobs of the future.  The Investing in Tomorrow’s Workforce Act would ensure that American workers have the skills needed to successfully navigate the transition into higher-skilled positions and in-demand industries.  It has been estimated that nearly 50 percent of jobs in the United States could be at risk due to automation.  The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated these trends, with one recent study by the World Economic Forum (WEF) indicating that roughly 40 percent of current workers will require reskilling as a result of future automation. 

“An investment in America’s workforce is an investment in our economy.  As automation becomes a part of our workforce, we must equip American workers for the future,” said Durbin.  “The Investing in Tomorrow’s Workforce Act will reaffirm our standing as an innovative global economic power while strengthening the middle class.”

“Nearly 50 percent of jobs in the United States could be at risk forautomation, and we know those most vulnerable are already living on the margins. This is an opportunity to invest in a future-forward workforce, equipping individuals with the tools, resources, and education needed to thrive in our ever-evolving economy,” said Warnock. “This legislation I am introducing alongside Senator Durbin marks a pivotal step towards ensuring our citizens are well-prepared to join the workforce of the future."

"As new technologies continue to reshape our economy and world, we must continue to invest in the people who make our nation’s economic success possible: American workers,” said Schneider.“Providing our workers with the resources and training necessary to thrive in the careers of tomorrow is essential to our continued economic growth and global competitiveness. I am proud to introduce this legislation alongside Senators Durbin and Warnock to support the workers and innovation that will ensure that the United States remains a global economic leader."

Jobs most affected by automation are those held predominantly by groups that are already vulnerable, such as low-income earners and people of color.  An International Monetary Fund report found that previous pandemic events have accelerated automation, and that economies with higher robot density see a larger increase in inequality in the medium term. 

However, investments in the training needed to transition workers into these new opportunities are at historic lows.  The United States spent just 0.1 percent of Global Domestic Product (GDP) on active labor market policies in 2015—significantly less than many European countries and less than half of the level of workforce investments made in the United States 30 years ago.

A recent report found that automation will pose a risk to close to 900,000 jobs in Illinois, or 18 percent of all jobs considered.

Specifically, the Investing in Tomorrow’s Workforce Act would:

  • Invest in Workforce Training.  The bill would create a grant program through the Department of Labor to support industry partnerships in developing and carrying out training programs forworkers who are, or are likely to become, dislocated because of advances in technology, including automation.
  • Expand Current Programs.  The bill would increase funding forNational Dislocated Worker Grants and amend the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) to ensure workers who are dislocated by automation are included in WIOA programs. 

Along with Durbin and Warnock, the legislation is also cosponsored by U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV).

The Investing in Tomorrow’s Workforce Act is supported by the National Skills Coalition.

A one-pager on the Investing in Tomorrow’s Workforce Act is available here.