Lawmakers Want Government to Help Workers Prepare for Automation

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Senators introduced a bipartisan bill that would require the Labor Department to analyze the impacts of automation and prepare workers for a tech-driven job market.

A bipartisan pair of lawmakers wants the government to do a better job helping U.S. workers navigate the job market as automation becomes more widespread.

Sens. Gary Peters, D-Mich., and Todd Young, R-Ind., on Tuesday introduced a bill that would require the Bureau of Labor Statistics to collect more data on the jobs being displaced and created by automation. The agency would also track how the demand for certain skills changes over time.

Under the bill, the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine would assist BLS in creating metrics to analyze those workforce trends.

The ultimate goal of the Workforce Data for Analyzing and Tracking Automation Act is to give workers the information they need to anticipate future career prospects and set themselves up for success in an increasingly tech-driven job market.

“It’s clear that automation is rapidly changing the way our workforce operates,” Young said in a statement. “We must be able to track those changes to support workers needing to adapt to changing technology. The Workforce DATA Act would help record continuous, reliable data on the latest technological advancements in order to ensure our workers aren’t left behind.”

On top of increasing data on the impacts of automation, the legislation would also stand up an advisory board to guide the government’s efforts. After four years, the board would use the information to create strategies for developing the country’s workforce amid technological change.

A 2017 study by McKinsey found automation and other technologies will force roughly one-third of American workers to learn new skills and change careers by 2030. People in every sector will feel the impact of emerging tech, but certain jobs will be hit harder than others.

“This bipartisan legislation would help put our workforce in the best position possible to close skills gaps and thrive as cutting-edge technologies continue to emerge,” Peters said in a statement.

Though automation will displace a number of jobs, the tech also promises to free employees from repetitive tasks and allow organizations to do more with less, especially in the government. A handful of agencies, like the IRS and General Services Administration, are already turning to automation to help employees keep up with increasing workloads.

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