The Biden-Harris administration has made historic progress in infrastructure, manufacturing and clean energy that will provide good jobs for workers – too many of whom have been left behind in our economy. The majority of the work ahead, including connecting people to those jobs, will be done by communities on the ground working hand in hand.
I witnessed this firsthand when I visited Michigan last week with Vice President Kamala Harris. Along with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, I got to tour Focus: HOPE, a nonprofit whose mission statement pledges “intelligent and practical action to overcome racism, poverty and injustice.” How do they do this? By preparing individuals from southeast Michigan for good union jobs in information technology, construction, water treatment, advanced manufacturing, and more.
We chose to convene in Michigan since it’s a manufacturing and clean-energy hub, and we have a unique opportunity to bring good jobs to this state’s workforce. The state is well-positioned to help deliver on the president’s vision of an economy built on dramatic growth in domestic manufacturing of electric vehicles and semiconductors. Secretary Walsh saw this during a trip to Detroit with President Biden last November celebrating how the Infrastructure Law will drive America’s future.
Focus: HOPE partners with community colleges and private-sector intermediaries, especially union employers, so youth and young adults have access to career pathways – and they’ve been successful in expanding opportunities for underserved communities. CEO Portia Roberson and her dynamic team, made up largely of women of color, talked about how participants also receive help with transportation, housing, child care, and clothing to succeed in apprenticeship programs – programs that lead not only to jobs but careers.
This was the experience of Temesha Holly, who had just completed a pre-apprenticeship program and who dreams of one day transferring from manufacturing to designing semiconductors. I met another graduate, Decondi Kennedy, who had returned to Focus: HOPE, now as an instructor. Their stories reminded me of the importance of the work we’re doing at the Department of Labor to achieve the same goals.
Together, we can ensure those who have been routinely shut out in the past can now benefit from this historic boom of federal investments and the jobs that are created. This includes people of color, LGBTQ+ workers, workers with disabilities, urban and rural workers, veterans and, throughout all these communities, women.
For women in particular, a lack of access to child care and a care infrastructure that values care workers has had a devastating impact on their careers and families. But thanks to Gov. Whitmer’s leadership, Michigan’s child care income eligibility was increased, easing the burden for many hard-working families.
Through our very own Department of Labor Women’s Bureau, our Fostering Access Rights and Equity (FARE) grants fund community organizations, so that underserved women workers know their rights and eligibility for benefits. The department is also investing in labor-management partnerships in communities nationwide to meet the need for skilled workers.
Our economy works better when it is inclusive, where equitable access to good jobs and careers is not just a goal, but a reality. This is the focus of our Good Jobs Initiative. Specifically, the Biden-Harris administration knows that the unprecedented investments by the federal government can shape behavior when connected to job quality and equity standards. Through the Good Jobs Initiative, the department has worked with our sister agencies to include such standards in over $66 billion of federal funds. We’re collaborating across the government to build strong labor standards and equitable pathways to good jobs infrastructure, energy and manufacturing.
With the Department of Commerce we created a set of Good Jobs Principles to define the vision of job quality that America’s workers are looking for and deserve.
My trip to Michigan reminded me that we are truly working as a team, across the Biden-Harris administration and with all our state and local partners, to meet this moment for our workforce. I look forward to continuing this work together.
Julie Su is the deputy secretary of labor.