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Statement of the Hon. Jason Crow on Skill, Upskill, and Reskill: Analyzing New Investments in Workforce Development

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic created one of the most significant upheavals in the history of the American labor force. Between February and April of 2020, the U.S. economy shed 22 million jobs, and the unemployment rate skyrocketed from 3.5% to 14.8%.

Congress stepped in to pass the CARES Act, stopping the economy’s freefall and providing support throughout the pandemic. This quick action, combined with the American Rescue Plan, paved the way for one of the fastest recoveries from a recession in our nation’s history. In 2021, the U.S. economy added 6.6 million jobs, the most on record. Considering the deep wounds of the pandemic, this is a monumental achievement. 

While we’ve recovered most of the jobs lost during the pandemic, our country is in the middle of an ongoing labor shortage. This shortage is complex in its origin, and we can’t attribute it to any one factor. The pandemic upended life as we know it. It slowed legal immigration, caused a wave of early retirements, and forced many to exit the job market out of concerns for their health or family obligations. All of these factors have contributed to the shortage we are seeing today.

The labor shortage impacts all businesses, but it particularly concerns our nation’s entrepreneurs. But there is more to this than a pure lack of workers. For many small firms, a general lack of applicants isn’t the problem, instead they aren’t finding qualified candidates, workers with the proper skills to do the job and do it well.


Guaranteeing an adequate number of skilled workers in the labor force could be the first step to smoothing out this rough labor market. Fortunately, we have many established tools at our disposal to accomplish this goal. For example, initiatives like workforce boards, apprenticeships, community college, and career and technical education can all help upskill the American labor force.

But as it stands, these initiatives aren’t getting the funding they need. Over the past decade alone, the workforce system has seen a nearly 20 percent decline in federal funding when adjusted for inflation. I think we’re seeing the impacts of this underinvestment in today’s economy.

Fortunately, the Biden administration has made a commitment to reversing this trend. Workforce development expansion, improvement, and funding is prominent feature of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The Infrastructure Law allows states to obligate funds from programs like the National Highway Performance Program toward workforce development activities. The Digital Equity Act of 2021 also creates two new grant programs that provide funds to develop digital equity plans and help give people the requisite skills to compete in today’s economy.

These are excellent developments, but we must find more ways to modernize the American labor force. So today, I hope we can take a close look at existing programs and discuss new initiatives to expand our country’s pool of skilled workers. By investing in workforce development, we can help ease our current labor shortage and position American workers to thrive in the future. 

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