White House panel: Build new tech infrastructure for future jobs

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A White House advisory panel on Tuesday urged the government and private industry to work together on new technological infrastructure to support future jobs and underpin a solid economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

FILE PHOTO: People who lost their jobs wait in line to file for unemployment benefits, following an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at Arkansas Workforce Center in Fort Smith, Arkansas, U.S. April 6, 2020. REUTERS/Nick Oxford/File Photo

The White House American Workforce Policy Advisory Board, co-chaired by White House adviser Ivanka Trump and U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, called for "an unprecedented investment in digital infrastructure." Members include Apple Inc AAPL.O Chief Executive Tim Cook, Lockheed Martin Corp LMT.N Chief Executive Marillyn Hewson and International Business Machines Corp IBM.N Executive Chairman Ginni Rometty.

The board “was focused on solving these challenges even prior to covid 19, but the pandemic has accelerated our need to take action,” said Barbara Humpton, CEO of Siemens USA.

The board’s efforts are aimed at helping connect displaced workers with pathways to upgrade their skills and learn new ones so they can move into “good jobs in rebounding fields as the health crisis abates and the economy begins to recover,” according to a White House official briefed on the plan.

The board wants governments “to streamline occupational licensing, education requirements, reduce the cost of licensing, and increase reciprocity” and urges the federal government to “allow student financial aid for high-quality, short-term, market-aligned credential programs.”

Workforce issues have taken on new importance as the coronavirus pandemic has decimated the economy.

The United States lost 20.5 million jobs in April, the steepest plunge since the Great Depression. The unemployment rate surged to 14.7%, shattering the post-World War Two record of 10.8% touched in November 1982.

In a statement, Ross said the advisory board’s meeting comes at a “challenging” time, but expressed confidence the president’s policies will lead to a rapid rebound.

Ivanka Trump said in a separate statement the board will work to find “solutions to combat the job loss caused by this pandemic and help the unemployed get reconnected to the workforce.”

“By rallying around this call to action, leaders in business and government can help more people build skills that lead to good jobs, promote hiring that is based on skills not just degrees, and build a national skills infrastructure to connect workers with opportunities,” IBM’s Rometty said in a statement.

Four major companies - Walmart Inc WMT.N, Salesforce CRM.N, IBM and Workday Inc WDAY.O - are announcing Tuesday they are creating "Interoperable Learning Records" to help workers and employers match applicants with jobs, the official said.

Reporting by David Shepardson and Alexandra Alper; Editing by Leslie Adler and Richard Chang