Our nation has far too many people without jobs, far too many jobs without people to fill them, and as a result, far too many businesses that can’t grow and thrive.
We are calling on elected officials and the federal and state level to take immediate action to help address this national economic crisis.
Closing the jobs gap will require us to:
- Help Americans acquire the skills they need to fill today’s open jobs
- Improve educational and job training opportunities for the jobs of tomorrow
- Remove barriers to entering the workforce
- Expand the workforce through immigration reform
1. Help Americans acquire the skills they need to fill today’s open jobs
Empower employers to put Americans back to work faster
Just as with vaccine development, America needs an Operation Warp Speed approach for filling open jobs. This will require government to rethink traditional job training programs and instead engage and support employers as the critical link in successful job training programs.
- Employer Collaboratives and Sector Partnerships: Fund and support employer collaboratives and sector partnerships at the state and local levels tasked with building talent pipelines based on in-demand jobs and skills using their preferred training partners.
- State and Regional Labor Market Information (LMI): Employer collaboratives and sector partnerships are tasked with and supported in producing primary source data on the most in-demand jobs and skills – as well as available supply of potential workers – needed to support long-term economic growth and competitiveness.
- Eligible Training Providers: Update eligible training provider lists by empowering state and local employer collaboratives and sector partnerships with designating their preferred providers of talent as well as the criteria used to make such a designation. This includes allowing support services designed to remove obstacles to training and employment, particularly for opportunity populations that need additional support services to be successful and employed long-term.
- On-the-Job-Training (OJT) and Earn and Learn: Target investments to put Americans back to work faster. Equip designated employer collaboratives/sector partnerships with resources to target investments to their preferred providers of talent. This should include subsidized employment (e.g., OJT) for newly hired workers and workers participating in earn and learn pathways, such as employer-led apprenticeships.
2. Improve educational and job training opportunities for the jobs of tomorrow
Empower individuals to identify the jobs of the future and educational programs with a record of success while modernizing employment and educational records
American workers need current and reliable information about job opportunities and which education programs best prepare students for success. In addition, modernizing education and employment records can improve job search outcomes.
- Outcomes Data and Transparency: Structured data about learning combined with structured data about employment will remove friction when applying for education and jobs but will also provide comprehensive data on outcomes for every program, credential, and career pathway.
- Learning and Employer Records (LERs): In addition to providing a verified and authenticated record of employment history for every American worker, support the ability of education, training, and credentialing providers to produce a digital record of learning that is based on open and available data standards and used to empower learners and workers with information about their skills and qualifications.
- Jobs and Employment Data Exchange (JEDx): Support a public-private approach to modernizing employment and earning records through a national data trust. This effort will streamline and improve government reporting, labor market analytics, and employment verification services. Such an infrastructure will improve the quality and comparability of outcomes data while improving information for career guidance and streamlining access to jobs. It can also provide the backbone infrastructure to (1) modernize employer reporting of UI wage records through a comprehensive employment record and; (2) produce the next generation of LMI using employer data; (3) verify every American worker’s employment history in an LER; and (4) verify employment and earnings records for automating benefits and entitlements.
Give American workers and employers new tools to invest in and maintain their skills
American workers and their employers need new tools and strategies for continually investing in skills and education over a worker’s lifetime that does not result in more debt.
- Skills Savings Accounts: Support nationwide implementation of portable “skills savings accounts” co-invested in by workers and employers and provide every worker with resources for education and training. New skills savings accounts should be flexible in types of training, credentialing, and assessments they can be spent on and should be portable in that they follow the worker from one job to the next.
- Employer Student Loan Repayment and Continuing Education: Improve and make permanent the ability of employers to retire a worker’s student loan or training debt and providing continuing education training.
- State and Local Income Share Agreement (ISA) Funds: Support states and local communities in piloting public-private ISA funds that can be used to make an equity investment in their future workforce. ISAs are a novel approach to paying for one’s education, training, and credentialing that does not require learners and workers to take on more debt.
- Promote work-based learning and employability skills: Promote work-based learning across the curriculum and incentivize institutions to make work-based learning count for credit toward program completion.
- Pell Expansion: Expand the amount and eligibility criteria for Pell dollars and make them available for use in non-credit bearing courses that provide skills and credentialing for in-demand jobs, otherwise known as “workforce Pell.” This expansion of Pell can also be aligned to employer collaboratives, and their designated preferred provider lists (see above) for determining which programs and credentials should be eligible for workforce Pell dollars.
3. Remove barriers to entering the workforce
Targeted reforms can help more people enter the workforce
A key to closing the jobs gap is expanding the workforce. There are a variety of barriers government can help remove to enable more Americans to seek employment.
- Expand Availability of Quality, Affordable Childcare: For many Americans, lack of available quality childcare is a barrier to employment, especially in low-income communities. Federal, state, and local officials should work with the private sector to streamline and provide support for the expansion of childcare.
- Automated Benefits: The federal government provides various income support programs for low-income working families, yet these programs are not well administered to support families throughout the year. The government should automate the administrative processes that determine eligibility for benefits and entitlements (e.g., CTC and EITC). Through the use of verified and authenticated comprehensive employment records, government administrative agencies would have a more trusted and timely record of employment history and earnings to seamlessly manage the distribution of benefits while also reducing waste, fraud, and abuse.
- Improve Second Chance Hiring: Working with the private sector, government can support employment opportunities for formerly incarcerated individuals through Second Chance Hiring, “ban-the-box,” occupational licensing reform, and other initiatives.
- Remove Occupational Licensing Barriers: Government can ease or eliminate occupational licensing restrictions that make entering a new field time-intensive, cost-prohibitive, and restricts opportunities for mobility.
4. Expand the workforce through immigration reform
Immigration will serve as a key ingredient in the future workforce and economic growth
Historically, immigration has helped fuel the American economy. Sensible immigration policies will ensure that the American economy remains the envy of the world where the best and brightest from here and around the world have an opportunity to contribute to a growing and more prosperous America.
The Chamber calls for changes to be made on the issuance of employment-based immigrant visas:
- Double the cap on employment-based immigrant visas from 140,000/year to 280,000/year.
- Eliminate the practice of counting spouses and minor children under the annual green card quota, which, if done alone, would practically double the amount of employment-based immigrant workers our nation admits every year.
- Eliminate the Per-Country Caps that punish individuals from certain countries with arbitrarily longer wait times, and when done in combination with expanding the annual quota, will avoid the creation of several new backlogs within the system.
- Provide international students who graduate from U.S. universities with more opportunities to obtain employment-based green cards upon graduation.
- Enhance and expand the opportunities for entrepreneurs to obtain permanent residency so they can build their businesses here in the United States.
The Chamber calls for changes to be made with respect to the issuance of temporary work visas:
- Double the annual quota on the issuance of H-1B visas for high-tech workers.
- Double the annual quota and instituting a permanent returning worker exemption for H-2B seasonal employment visas.
- Expand access to H-2A agricultural worker visas for non-seasonal agricultural businesses, such as dairies and livestock producers, and ensure that the program meets the future needs of American agriculture.
- Expand Premium Processing and other measures to increase processing efficiency and eliminate the significant backlogs for various immigration benefits.
- Responsibly reinstate routine visa processing at consulates around the world so companies can obtain and retain the workers they need without significant operation disruptions to their businesses.
- Create a new, geographically targeted visa program, along the lines of the Heartland Visa proposal, that will drive economic and population growth into American communities struggling with the serious economic and social problems caused by significant population loss.
Protect Vulnerable Populations of Critical Workers
The Chamber will continue to advocate for permanent legislative solutions that address the plight of Dreamers and long-term Temporary Protected Status recipients. These individuals are a part of American society and they make critical contributions in our nation’s workforce. Legislation that provides relief for these two populations is long overdue and should be passed without delay.
Eliminate Harmful Regulatory Policies
There are several regulations and regulatory proposals that will significantly delay or hinder the ability of companies to hire/continue employing foreign national professionals. Eliminating these threats to the business community will prevent otherwise unnecessary business disruptions.