Joe Biden: Strengthen the middle class with workforce training

The former vice president hosted a panel of policymakers and industry leaders to discuss solutions for creating a thriving and working middle class.

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Rebuilding the middle class will require skills training rather than a government handout Joe Biden said at a panel Tuesday on the future of work.

Biden wrote in a blog post previewing the panel that there is “a better way” forward to grow the middle class and, by extension, the American economy over the emergent theory of a universal basic income championed by Silicon Valley execs.

“I believe they’re selling American workers short. The future will not change the enduring American values that got us here,” Biden wrote, “Our children and grandchildren deserve the promise we’ve had: the skills to get ahead, the chance to earn a paycheck, and a steady job that rewards hard work.”

At the Biden Institute-hosted event at the University of Delaware in Newark, Del. the former vice president moderated a panel which discussed alternative solutions to an impending jobs crisis as automation threatens to transform or eliminate human labor.

As reported by Delaware Online, Biden was joined by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao; MGM Resorts International Chairman and CEO Jim Murren; Mary Kay Henry, President of Service Employees International Union; and former National Economic Council adviser and current president of Opportunity@Work, Byron Auguste.

The panel bounced around suggestions on how to better prepare students for the evolving demands of the 21st-century workforce. Instead of a monthly handout, both Biden and the panelists agreed that increasing educational opportunity was the best strategy for creating an adaptable workforce.

In his introductory speech, Biden warned UD students that they should not consider their education to be complete once they leave school. He urged them to become lifelong learners, Delaware News Talk 105.9 reported.

“Those of you who are physics students or astrophysicists, you can graduate with a doctorate this spring, and unless you have a continuing education, you’re going to be obsolete in 10 years,” Biden said, “The knowledge you’ve acquired thus far will not take you through the enormous change that is going to take place in the new term.”

Former labor secretary Chao said that training workers for the jobs of tomorrow require giving them the tools and skills for the jobs of today. Creating a “more sophisticated workforce” will necessitate a nimble federal initiative that is connected to the demands of employers.

“We have to make sure that they are flexible, that they’re responsive, and that they’re also demand driven,” Chao said, “Our federal training programs have to train people for jobs that actually exist.”

The Biden Institute is working on creating a coalition of public and private institutions to reform our educational system so it can be a continuous resource for the American workers. Tuesday’s panel was part of a multi-event initiative for Biden to “learn from their successes and find common ground to help leverage and scale them.”

According to Delaware Online, Biden said during the discussion that educating a student through the 12th grade is no longer sufficient and policymakers should consider lowering the cost of higher education, or make two years of community college free of charge.

Other suggestions provided by the panel included eliminating drags on the current economy like non-compete clauses and wage suppression.

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