By Katherine F. MendezSamantha L. Brooks, and Anastacia E. Topaltzas

Seyfarth Synopsis: In our fourth installment on the presidential candidates’ stances on future of work issues, we focus on their approach to training employees for a highly technical workplace, and how they plan on investing in the ever-changing workforce.

At the Democratic Debate in South Carolina on February 25, the presidential hopefuls primarily discussed controversial issues such as health care and gun control. Interestingly, however, and despite the fact that the future of work has received little attention at the debates, the majority of the candidates have been vocal about their plans for addressing and preparing for the future of work. In sum, the candidates overwhelmingly support working training and apprenticeships, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education, and investments in these types of programs to prepare workers for a more technological (perhaps, automated) economy and workforce.

Former Vice President Joe Biden plans to invest $50 billion in “high-quality training programs,” provide community colleges with the latest technology, and create federally registered apprenticeships that provide training to workers who did not pursue higher education. (Pete Buttigieg, who dropped out of the race on March 1, similarly planned to invest over $50 billion, but was more focused on funding state-industry partnerships to educate high school students on careers in technical education, and creating apprenticeship programs within IT/advanced manufacturing.)

Michael Bloomberg is vocal about creating “Apprenticeship Degrees,” an affordable alternative to Bachelor’s Degrees, and increasing the amount of internship opportunities for students to learn digital skills in the workplace. (Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who dropped out of the race on March 2, also focused on young people and planned to alter high-school curricula to better prepare students for the modern workplace. Notably, she planned to expand STEM education for women and underrepresented minorities.)

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has not revealed specific plans about preparing employees for the future of work; however, we know that she supports this concept generally because she voted to pass the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act in 2014, which updated federal workforce development programs to teach 21st century job skills.

Sen. Bernie Sanders will invest in career and technical education for high school students by tripling funding of the Work-Study Program, designed to provide workplace experience that will better transition students into the workforce.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, much like the other candidates, plans on investing in employee technical training and apprenticeship programs. (Tom Steyer held the same position before he dropped out of the race on February 29.)

President Donald Trump appears to support national preparation for the future of work through his development of “America’s Strategy for STEM Education,” which educates working Americans on basic STEM concepts and digital literacy, and the “President’s National Council for the American Worker,” which raises awareness of the technical skill gap and investment in workplace training.

What seems clear is that employers should be developing their own models of education and training to ensure their workforce is continually learning and growing as the workplace evolves. This is, apparently, also on the mind of Congress, since this week, on March 4, a subcommittee of the House Education and Labor Committee plans to address apprenticeships at a hearing titled “Reauthorizing the National Apprenticeship Act: Strengthening and Growing Apprenticeships for the 21st Century.”

For more information on this or any related topic please contact the authors, your Seyfarth attorney, or any member of the Workplace Counseling & Solutions Team.