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Steve Bullock: Striving for good jobs for all Americans

Tribune-Review
| Saturday, September 29, 2018 7:03 p.m.

Every state and every governor in the country face a litany of challenges that impact almost every demographic. During my time as governor of Montana, I’ve heard from a lot of people from all different walks of life, and I fundamentally believe most folks want and value the same things: good jobs, roofs over their heads, safe communities, clean air and water, good public schools and the unwavering belief the next generation will have more opportunity than the one that came before.

We are on the cusp of economic and social transformation, catalyzed by technological advancement, changing demographics, evolving skills and new ways of engaging with work. These trends will reshape our economy at every level, and if we capitalize on them, have the potential to make us all more productive and fuel economic growth for generations. This new revolution could provide Americans from all backgrounds new opportunities to succeed and reach new heights.

While these opportunities are in our grasp, they are not guaranteed. We’ve seen rising tensions and fears of joblessness or displacement. We also know the promise of economic opportunity is not a reality for large swaths of America.

But we can no longer afford to leave anyone behind. Our nation’s governors make decisions every day that directly impact the lives of our citizens. Ensuring all of our country’s workers have the opportunity to get a good job that pays a decent wage with benefits they deserve isn’t a Republican issue or a Democratic issue — it’s an American issue. It’s imperative we bridge the growing divides and ensure all Americans have an equal shot at a better life.

The time to answer these challenges is upon is.

When I became chair of the National Governors
Association in July, I launched an initiative — Good Jobs for All Americans — to engage my fellow governors in grappling with the future of work, midcareer disruptions and second-chance opportunities, as well as the unique economic struggles faced by many rural communities.

We must equip today’s workers with new skills and prepare them for jobs that don’t even exist today. The economy of the future will require schools to partner with businesses and provide better career information to youths so they are prepared for whatever their futures may hold. It will demand sustained investment in apprenticeships and job-training programs, as well as forming direct connections between education and job training.

Our first regional meeting happened in September in Pittsburgh, which has been no stranger to economic shifts: The decline of steel jobs and the impact of the recession led to serious hardships in Pittsburgh and the surrounding towns, cities and rural communities. Thanks to Gov. Tom Wolf’s strong leadership, you have found ways to create opportunities for Pennsylvanians. You have invested in apprenticeship programs, attracted new businesses and reinvigorated Pittsburgh’s core.

And this effort is paying off: Between March 2016 and March 2018, all the counties in the Pittsburgh metro area have seen declines in unemployment rates. This region is tenacious and driven to find solutions. This ethos — a willingness to reinvent yourself — is a vital part of generating economic opportunity for all.

We have a long way to go to create pathways to good jobs for all Americans, and we will certainly face obstacles along the way. However, I’m confident we can and must make progress. And when we strengthen the backbone of America — workers — our whole nation will stand taller.

Steve Bullock is governor of Montana.

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