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Labor Secretary Says Investment Needed to Create Equal Opportunity

November 18, 2021 by Victoria Turner
Amy McCoy serves lunch to preschoolers at her Forever Young Daycare facility, Monday, Oct. 25, 2021, in Mountlake Terrace, Wash. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. economy is rebounding but the pandemic has not ended and neither have efforts needed for the nation’s full recovery, said U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, Wednesday. 

Speaking at a Brookings Institution event, Walsh insisted the recently signed infrastructure bill, as well as the pending Build Back Better bill, are the investments needed to create a variety of pathways to equitable employment opportunities.

Discussing the future of work and the workplace, Walsh said the U.S. averaged a monthly increase of 442,000 jobs over the last three months. Once these federal investments are allocated, the public will see more results, likely by the start of 2022, he said.

According to Walsh, the portion of the infrastructure bill focused on broadband access and deployment will result in upward economic mobility for all Americans. “It’s a game-changer,” he said.

In addition to creating good-paying jobs, the bill will provide more avenues to employment, education and information for people from all walks of life, insisted Walsh. The Labor Department, he added, is working in tandem with the departments of Transportation, Commerce and Energy to make sure these investments will create these jobs. 

Broadband is not the only investment that could positively influence the future of America’s workers. The president’s Build Back Better bill will create roughly 2 million new registered apprenticeship programs and improve child care services, Walsh said.

Currently, families pay between 30% and 50% of their salaries to send their children to child care facilities, he explained. The pending bill caps that at 7% for any family earning less than $300,000. It also aims to invest in higher wages and better working conditions for child care workers, who are predominantly women of color who have disproportionately been affected by the pandemic.

Despite women accounting for 340,000 of last month’s 531,000 job gain, Walsh stated, “there are still 2.6 million women missing from the workforce.” That’s 3.2% less than February 2020. The Build Back Better package includes investments for universal pre-kindergarten, extending the Child Tax Credit and job training programs for caregivers.

“Putting the pandemic in our rearview mirror,” Walsh said, will involve bolstering pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs that help people think differently about their future. 

Apprenticeships are not internships but a “pathway to hiring,” he explained, and they “are going to be the way of the future.”

Victoria can be reached at [email protected] 

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