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Summary

  • The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic crisis affected the health and economic wellbeing of American workers. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, more than 9.5 million workers have lost their jobs in the wake of COVID-19, with 4 million out of work for half a year or longer. In additional to signing the American Rescue Plan into law, on May 10, President Biden announced additional steps to help Americans return to work. He directed the Secretary of Labor to expand States’ reemployment services and workforce development boards’ job counseling for unemployment beneficiaries.

     

  • The National Association of Workforce Boards represents over 500 local Workforce Development Boards across the country.  Workforce Development Boards serve as the primary link between the U.S. Department of Labor, other federal and state agencies, education institutions, local elected officials, community organizations, and employers and the workforce. Ron Painter , president of the association, briefs media on how workforce development boards assist unemployed and under-employed Americans acquire skills and find placement in new employment during this time of economic recovery.

NEW YORK FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, 799 UNITED NATIONS PLAZA, 10TH FLOOR

MODERATOR:  Hi, everyone.  Welcome to today’s New York Foreign Press Center briefing.  My name Daphne Stavropoulos and I am today’s moderator.  It’s a pleasure to introduce Ron Painter.  He’s the president of the National Association of Workforce Development Boards.  Mr. Painter works with state and local workforce leaders to identify cutting-edge practices and programs and understand how best to spread innovative trends in human capital development through – excuse me – throughout the nation – our nationwide job training system.

This briefing is on the record.  The views expressed by briefers not affiliated with the Department of State or the U.S. Government are their own and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Government or the State Department.  Following Mr. Painter’s remarks, there will be a question and answer session.  And after his presentation, I’ll open the floor for questions.

If you have a question, go to the participant field and raise your virtual hand and wait for me to call on you.  And when you’re called on, please enable both your video and your audio, identify yourself and your outlet.  If you are experiencing audio issues, you can also go to the chat box and I will read your question aloud.

And with that, I’d like to pass it over to today’s briefer, Mr. Painter.  Thank you so much for joining us today.

MR PAINTER:  All right, Daphne, thank you.  Good afternoon and my thanks to the Foreign Press Corps for having me today, and for the work of the U.S. State Department in coordinating the briefing.

As Daphne mentioned, my name is Ron Painter and I am the president and CEO of the National Association of Workforce Boards.  We are D.C.-based and we represent the nation’s over 550 local business-led workforce development boards and a number of the state workforce boards as well.

Workforce development has been a critical part of the U.S. federal policy and in support of the economy for over a century.  Workforce development has a long history of integration with education dating back to 1862 when the – when what is called the Morrill Act was passed, which created the nation’s land-grant university system.  It at that point focused on really practical skills, such as agriculture, military science, and engineering, and later then expanded as the Industrial Revolution came across the U.S. and the economy.

In the 1930s, workforce development was fundamental in FDR’s – Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal to address the high unemployment caused by the Great Depression.  If you understand about that timeframe in the U.S., you had things like the Work Progress Administration, which employed craftsmen and artists to do public murals, many of which still survive; and the Civilian Conservation Corps on which were built many state conservation corps.  So workforce development was an ingredient in bringing the U.S. out of the Great Depression.

Today as the landscape of work adapts to the demands of technology, workforce development is now used to help individuals find sustaining employment, addressing their skill gap that may limit those employment opportunities.

So let me explain in more detail what a workforce development board is and why we have over 550 of them.  Workforce development boards are the link, they’re the conduit between, in our case, money appropriated by Congress comes to the U.S. Department of Labor, so primarily the U.S. Department of Labor, but also increasingly the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the universe – the Department of Agriculture.  So the boards are the conduit between that federal level and businesses, education, and other entities, policymakers, at the local level.

By working with each of these entities, workforce development boards are able to understand local labor market demands, align resources, and craft programs and initiatives to help individuals find skill development, to find support resources, and ultimately, employment opportunities.

To give a sense of scale about what the U.S. works with in our market, if we look at the period April 2020 to April 2021, there were a total of 139 million transactions in the U.S. labor market.  Now, by a transaction we mean somebody got hired, somebody got separated, whether that’s voluntary or involuntary –  maybe they got hired again – but the point is there are an enormous number of such transactions in the U.S. labor market.  The labor – civilian labor market of about 160 – a little north of 160 million individuals.

So this local understanding of the market is really important since local and regional is the point of impact for the market changes.  There’s been some work done by David Autor – I hope I pronounced that correctly – out of MIT, and his work with some other colleagues points out that even if we look at global changes in processes or supply chains, that impact comes back to the local level.  So this understanding of where the resources are to address the market, the changes in the market at the local level, is very, very important.  And across the U.S., like any great large nation, has different regions and different regional needs.

It goes without saying that all businesses need workforce development, but too many businesses are not sure where to begin.  A study by Accenture found that 62 percent of executives were unsure how to develop their workforce in this new digital economy, and a price tag of $3 trillion of future revenue is projected to be lost by inefficient workforce.  We continue to learn as an industry about which credentials matter and the role the local workforce development board in this process is that of translation.  We believe it’s invaluable in closing the current skills gap – this notion that we all in our different industries: business, workforce development, education – we all have a jargon, we all use a jargon that we all understand.  But being able to translate from one industry, which has to work together – these are systems inside systems – is really key, and that in large part is the role of the workforce development board.

Major legislation has helped workforce development boards meet the needs of their communities.  For example, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act is the most recent workforce legislation, signed in 2014 by President Barack Obama, and hopefully reauthorized by the U.S. Congress in this, the 117th session.

WIOA, as it’s called, helps individuals who are looking for job access, employment, education, skill development, and support for the life issues that come up.  We oftentimes don’t recognize how critical housing, transportation, childcare are in building a plan around how are we going to learn, how are we going to complete the skill development that we need?

So WIOA is also remarkable because it was really the first legislative acknowledgment that an effective workforce development system is a key economic development asset for regions.  So it is – I like to believe it is taking its place in those conversations around economic development investments that are being made.  And local governments in the U.S. invest somewhere north of $25 billion a year in economic development.  So having the other side of that equation – what is the impact for workforce, what is the likelihood that economic development investments will succeed – is really critical.

It was also the first major change in the workforce system in 15 years.  It broadened the concept of what’s called one-stop centers, the American Job Center, where a number of services are focused.  It delivered broader workforce development programs and established more authority for workforce development boards over those fundings.

Key pieces of WIOA that the boards work with are better alignment at the state level or around workforce development programs.  WIOA also ensured federal investment in employment and training programs were data-driven, that the accountability, the outcomes, were transparent because WIOA is governed by metrics, performance metrics.  This helps participants and it helps taxpayers, policymakers understand what’s the return on our investment.  It prompted coordination of workforce development programs with regional economic development strategies, specifically calling out this is a – this is a partnership that is really – is necessary.  It improved the American Job Center system through quality and accessibility of services, and bringing other players into the AJC.

It increased focus on services to employers and really, again, addressed work-based learning as a viable pathway to skill acquisition.  We’ve seen an increased investment in the U.S. in apprenticeships, and we – and the President has – in his budget has increased that again.  It improved access to high-quality skill development, which was focused on regional market needs.  So in the U.S. we say it went from a system of train and pray that somebody gets a job to really understanding labor market conditions and then putting that into play.  It increased coordination for services for unemployed job seekers, and it broadened, as I mentioned, the services to include things like career services, a deeper focus on adult and dislocated worker programs, services for job seekers primarily who did not have adequate skills, and a more coordinated effort, as I mentioned, to reach those on unemployment.

It continued to focus on services for disconnected youth and for vulnerable populations by allocating funds towards workforce initially – initiatives specifically aimed at Job Corps centers, which are residential and day programs scattered throughout the U.S. that are very intense programs of skill development and I think life skills; YouthBuild; funding for Native American programs; migrant and seasonal farmworkers.  It brought vocational rehabilitation more into the conversation around employment and outcomes, and importantly, adult education and literacy initiatives.  And it strengthened the strategic role of workforce development at the state and local level by putting the boards in the middle of these planning exercises for the federal investments.

Let me add that the – I’ll say it as the collective we, the royal we – are continuing to work to better connect workforce and education, the legislation at the federal level, by borrowing definitions and by referring to work that is being funded under one of the other federal pieces of legislation.  For example, the career and tech system in the U.S., funded federally through what’s called the Carl Perkins legislation, borrows definitions from WIOA, and also refers to the work in WIOA around the boards doing the analysis in regional labor markets around what are critical industries, what are critical occupations, and what are the credentialing necessary for those occupations.  And in turn, we’re borrowing the Carl Perkins definition of work-based learning.

So for the system in the U.S., this federal investment is really key and fundamentally important.  The federal funding allows the local workforce boards to do the ordinary things you would think of in a labor exchange system.  So labor exchange, taking job orders, helping to match individuals and refer individuals to those job orders, doing career guidance and career help for individuals – what’s next in my career?  What’s happening in my economy?  And doing the –underwriting some of the tuition necessary for that skill development.

What this does is allow the boards to build the partnerships with business, education, other federal, state, and local initiatives, and with economic development that leads to better outcomes and leads to more innovation.  Continued business investment is critical to skilling and re-skilling efforts because it is in their organizations’ best interest, and there is not enough federal money to be directed to the skilling needs.  But the broad reach of workforce boards at the local level to reach underserved, under-skilled, and underrepresented populations – the prime focus of local workforce development boards.

Changes in our workforce have been acerbated by shifts in demographics: Boomers retiring, population changes, major current trends.  In 2008, 2009, we were dealing with the Great Recession.  The last year we’ve dealt with the pandemic and converting most of our services to virtual.  And we will continue to see that.  We’ll continue to see changes in the economy through increased use of non-employer-attached workers, which are gig workers, if you will.  We’ll see that in the rise in deployment of automation.  Workforce development boards strive to comprehensively address market issues that arise through these changes at the local, state, and federal level.

So with that, Daphne, I hope that gives enough background and we’re – I’m happy to take questions.

MODERATOR:  Thank you so much, Ron, for those opening remarks.  We really appreciate them.  I’m happy to open the floor for questions.  If anyone has a question, please raise your hand or type your question in the chat box.

Well, why don’t I – why don’t I start the conversation by asking you if you could give us your thoughts on sort of the future of work in this post-pandemic world that we’re soon, hopefully, approaching.

MR PAINTER:  (Laughter.)  Yes.  Hopefully we are soon post-pandemic.  Yeah, I think it’s really – it’s a great question because it gives me an opportunity to look in the crystal ball and what do we see coming.

I think one of the things that we saw in the Great Recession was that business continued to invest heavily in automation, and I think we’re going to see that post-pandemic.  I think we’re also going to see a shift in what we understand we can do remotely.  I think there’s still things that, when we’re together in person – sometimes I think meetings that are in person are more effective.

But I think we’ve learned, and we are learning, how to work more remotely.  I think that’s going to maybe have implications for economic development.  Do we need – are people going to return to downtown, to the office towers, or are we going to see a greater investment in the technology – and certainly, the federal government is proposing greater investments and has ,in the early recovery bills, put in money for broadband expansion.  So I think we’re going to see that.

I also think that data is going to become more important to the workforce development system.  Not that it’s not already, but I think it’s going to become more important because I think we’ve learned that the idea that there is a skills gap is not a moment in time.  As I mentioned, it’s a very dynamic labor market, and so we see these changes continually, and I think that means that monitoring a regional labor market is going to continue to be and maybe be even more important to understand where those changes are going.  I think the move toward – by companies around skill-based hiring I think is going to have an impact on traditional education, and I think the reliance on – a greater reliance on competencies by business will likewise have a big impact.

I think there are also things, Daphne, that we’ve learned post-pandemic.  I think the recession – and I just was looking at a report in – that was – came out of Japan around the pandemic reinforcing the idea that for dislocated workers, speed in getting them reattached to – back to the labor market was critical.  We know that skills degragate (ph) and that we know that it becomes more difficult the longer an individual is unemployed to get them back into the – actively back into the labor market.

So I think we’re going to see – I hope we see more use of transitional employment so that we can keep those skills current, we can keep people learning, because I think that’s also going to be key.

MODERATOR:  Thank you so much for that question.  Let me just read the next question in the chat and then we’ll go to Pearl, whose hand I see is raised.  The question is coming in from Kasumi Abe from Cross FM of Japan.

The question is:  “I read the news that younger-generation employees change their employers because they are looking for only work-from-home work.  What’s your thought about this?”

MR PAINTER:  I think it’s a very valid point.  Again, I think it goes back to we have learned how to work remotely.  Some of us have probably learned how to manage remote workers better than maybe others of us have learned, but it’s been a different experience.  And I do find my nieces, my son, my nephews, they are so much more conversant with technology and they’re so much more connected not just across the U.S., but around the world with people that they have met.

I do think that we’re going to see more pressure on employers.  Prior to the pandemic, I think the younger-generation expectations around work was that it had meaning and that my experience with an employer taught me something that I could take through the rest of my career.  And so I do think we’re going to see more pressure on employers to allow that working from home, and as I said, I think that’s going to have consequences.

Ourselves, we’ve hired people during the pandemic.  I’ve never met them.  I’ve never met them in person, so I think these are – it’s really an interesting time.  But I do think we’re going to see that trend continue.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  Let’s go to Pearl.  Pearl, you’re welcome to enable your video as well as your audio if you can.

QUESTION:  Okay.  Thank you very much.  I appreciate the conversation.  My – I have several questions, but I guess I’ll just put them, like, in a nutshell, really what my question is, and that is:  Where are we in the conversation regarding where workers or the regulatory framework – where the – an employer treads the line of – I don’t know whether you can say “forcing” an employee or employees to return to work?  Are they then – saying you have to return to work, are they kind of, like, making health decisions for employees who may be hesitant to return to work?  I’m wondering where that – whether there’s – you’re seeing any trends in those types of conversations as to at what point can employers say, “You must return”?

MR PAINTER:  Yeah.  What a great question, Pearl, and really so timely.  One of my colleagues in this business and I the other day were just having this conversation.  Probably not a great answer, but I will say that our conclusion was we’re going to have to watch this as it plays out.  We saw the May jobs report.  We know that we’ve got to have that kind of consistent jobs report over a sustained number of months.  Again, it’s probably not a great answer, but the answer I have to you is that is something that we’re having conversations about and I think it’s something that we’re watching as well.

I think workers took an opportunity during the pandemic when they were home.  We do a lot of conversation with e-learning providers.  And I think a lot of people took the opportunity when they were at home to explore e-learning and explore other options for their career.  I think it goes back to if they couldn’t work in person, can they work remotely, and what does that take?

So I do think – again, I think it’s a great question.  I think it’s something that we’ve got to watch over the next few months.

MODERATOR:  Pearl, if you have other questions, we can come back to you, but the next question is in the chat from Yan Jin.  And she’s asking:  “Can you explain or share your thoughts on the shortage of worker supplies in the U.S.?”

MR PAINTER:  Again, great question.  I just looked this morning at – one of the data points that I like to watch at the end of the month is data put out by the Bureau of Labor Statistics called U6 data, which his kind of that catch-all for people who are unemployed, people who are working less than full time for economic reasons, et cetera.  Worker supply – yeah, it’s going to be an issue, I think, not just in the U.S. but I think industrialized countries around the world as we age.  We’re going to have a lot – we have a lot of Boomers walking out of the labor market every day.  We have a lot of Boomers that are going to stay out of the market; as a result of the pandemic, they’ve decided to retire.  I think, again, we’re going to watch this play out.

I don’t want to raise a big, controversial issue, but I appreciate the conversations that are going on in Congress and the White House around immigration policy in the U.S.  I think that’s – I think it is part of – I think it’s part of the solution to the worker shortages.  I think also the fact the Secretary of Labor was testifying in front of Congress today, talking about one of the great limiters to the potential for WIOA in the opinion of the administration is that our workforce efforts in the U.S. are woefully underfunded and have continually been underfunded.

So I think that also part of the issue around worker supply and the shortages is the fact that we have not been able to reach pieces of the civilian labor force that could go to work, that could do these critical jobs, because we’ve not put enough money into it and we’ve not, I think, sufficiently designed the systems to engage them in learning and to get them skilled.  I think we’re just starting to learn about – we’ve learned a little bit about – or a lot about, I guess – e-learning, and we’re starting to learn more about mobile learning and how do we reach individuals on their smartphone, on the mobile device.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  The next question is from Hiona Shiraiwa from Nikkei.  The question is:  “Twenty-five states will stop increasing unemployment benefits in June and July.  To what extent do you think this will improve the serious labor shortage, especially in food service and retail?  Even if a vaccine becomes widely available, I think there are medium to long-term factors such as concerns about the risk of infection in customer service and shortage of nursery schools amid the easing of mask requirements.  What is your outlook?”

MR PAINTER:  (Laughter.)  Oh, man, Daphne, these are like – these are pretty hard questions.  I’ll step out of my role as NAWB and I’ll put on my Ron hat.  Again, I think this is an issue that we’re going to have to follow, that we’re going to have to watch, that we’re going to have to see what the trends are.  I just saw a report out of San Francisco, which they say has achieved herd immunity – again, whatever that may mean – and they’re watching.  The cases are not rising substantially.  They’re – I think I saw something like 13 or something, like, cases average a day, or something like that.

So I think it’s something we’re going to have walk through.  This is in many ways, I think, an experiment in how do we come out of of the pandemic.  Yes, it has consequences for the labor market.  It has consequences for business in the U.S.  But this is something that I don’t – we’ve not had any experience in and I think we’re all learning as we go through this.  Certainly caution needs to be part of that formula.

And I think it does tie into the factors we talked earlier about: people’s reluctance to go back to work, what’s childcare – what’s the childcare situation look like, what’s the – I have kids that are school age.  What’s the situation with regard to the kids going back to school?  I think that’s part of what workforce – certainly it’s what workforce boards look at in their region.

MODERATOR:  Let’s go back to Pearl.  Pearl, you have your hand raised.

QUESTION:  I have a follow-up question, and I’m just wondering – workforce development is somewhat of a human resources function.  So as I’m thinking about organizations and so on and the United States as a whole – because the rest of the world does look to what the United States is doing, so it kind of sets the pace as to what the rest of the world might do.  So when a new employee is being hired, he would normally go through an orientation process during the hiring process.  And as employees are going back to work, do you think there’ll be a reorientation?  Are there conversations, maybe?  Do you think something needs to change in public policy regarding retooling employees to return to this new – I mean, they’re not, certainly – I mean, to what extent might they be returning to the old workplace?  This is now employees with different mindsets.  The last 18 months have probably produced millions and millions of a workforce that now has a different mindset.

So I’m wondering about this reorientation, and are some of these health security issues going to be left to human resources departments to be ensuring their places are safe?  I mean, how trained – are human resources staff ready for such a post-pandemic work environment?

MR PAINTER:  Yeah, I think – Pearl, I’d offer two observations.  One of my favorite discoveries was as we were working with – back in the day when I was in Pittsburgh, we were working with a number of industry sectors, and one of the things that I got exposed to and learned was that many manufacturing companies in Germany – which I, frankly, believe was a better orientation process than many I heard – helped the worker understand in the total process of the company, the manufacturing process of the company; the company’s position relative to the German economy; and that company’s position relative to the global competition.  I think it was – for me it was that kind of recognition that helping the individual understand, like, the total picture that they are entering I thought was really good.

It’s why many of the workforce boards in the U.S. – and it’s why we’re so supportive of entrepreneurship training, because even if that individual isn’t going on to start their own business, they have a much better understanding of the – of the pressure that the business that they’re going to is under.  And I think that does help workers understand how are they connected to the mission, the outcome of this company, and what does that mean in terms of our industry not only here domestically in the U.S., but what does that mean in terms of our industry in global competition.

We are seeing – and it’s some work that the U.S. Chamber has been doing around a talent pipeline – and we are seeing more HR departments engaged in strategic work, looking at their company, looking at their company’s future needs, and looking at how does that – how is that connecting to what the company needs.  So I think we are seeing – we are seeing HR departments change, we are seeing them become more strategic.  I would assume that this would be part of that growth.

MODERATOR:  Thank you very much.  If you have a question, feel free to raise your hand or let me know in the chat.

MR PAINTER:  Sorry about that.  Daphne, my computer told me I’m losing power, so.  (Laughter.)

MODERATOR:  Thank you for reconnecting.

MR PAINTER:  I had to figure out how to get that back – how to get that back.

MODERATOR:  Well, while we’re waiting for more questions, maybe – oh, well, I’ll give the floor to Alex.  Alex, can you – do you want to enable your video and ask your question?

QUESTION:  Hi, can you hear me?

MR PAINTER:  Mm-hmm, yes.

MODERATOR:  Yes.

QUESTION:  Yes, my apologies, I’m just on the road.  I – thank you so much for doing this.  This is Alex Raufoglu from Turan News Agency of Azerbaijan.  So I’m wondering if you have been able to look at the countries’ experiences to see if they are taking some different approach in putting their workforce engine, wellbeing, and sustainability at the center of the economy that we all are – will rebuild.  Thank you so much.

MR PAINTER:  Stephanie (ph), I had a hard time hearing that.  Can you —

MODERATOR:  As did I.  I’m so sorry, Alex, the connection is kind of – is a little bit bad.  Can you give us a quick, 30-second —

QUESTION:  Right, my apologies.  It’s because of me – my internet connection.  So I wonder if you have been able to look at the experience of other countries, like if you can provide some other countries’ experiences, that they have been taking different approaches in putting their workforce engine, well-being, and sustainability at the center of the economy that they will rebuild.  Thank you.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.

MR PAINTER:  Yeah, no, good question.  I had the opportunity to be in Antwerp prior to the pandemic for conversations.  I think there were about 30 countries represented there, and the conversation was all focused on workforce development.  One of the – I think one of the key examples that I would use is that in Singapore, the investment of the government was two-stage, as I understand it.  The first stage was an investment in just getting individuals in the labor market to get accustomed, to get cultured to going back to learning.  So the focus was just to get people learning, and it wasn’t necessarily laser-focused on workforce development; it was focused on getting me accustomed, building the habit of me continuing to learn.  And I think they’re continuing that with additional funding.

I do think that the recognition in WIOA, that talent, is a key asset to a region’s economy.  And I think there’s a growing recognition that not just the talent I see now, but what, again, I believe WIOA is giving the boards the responsibility, the ability to do, and that is to look at this notion of the systems – of systems: education, housing, transportation, child care, the businesses that are in the region and the business cycles.  Because I think now it’s about, okay – and I do believe that no matter when we talk about skill gaps and skill shortages, we’re talking about a static at-moment.  But there is always, I believe, going to be this skills gap.

So I think there is the recognition that if I can look at the skills that I have in the region today, that’s good, that’s one thing, that needs to be done.  But secondly, how agile is my workforce development system?  How rapidly can it and how rapidly can the workforce learn and relearn?

And so I think that’s going to continue to be and should be very important national, federal policy.  We’re working now as we look at WIOA seven years in – six years in, actually, from beginning to operate – we’re looking at those issues around what is agility, how do you measure agility, how do you look at flexibility?  So in our workforce development organizations, how do we do – how do we do professional development?  How do we do technical assistance to help organizations be more flexible, be more agile in responding to the market?

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  We have another question from Pearl.  She is asking:  “What would you say are the top one to two policy reform elements that may be urgent now?”

MR PAINTER:  Again, great question, Pearl.  I know one of the things that we’re talking about is – I’ve been reading a lot more research that talks about how critical regional action is, again, because the impacts on the market are most pronounced at that regional level.  So I think the question and policy becomes:  How do you do public investments, whether that’s the federal government, state government, local governments in the U.S.?  How do you do that investment that allows workforce boards to respond to the market?  And it’s like anything else.  It is a market, and it changes.

And so I think we really have to be quite focused on what is the outcomes that we are achieving.  How are we going to measure the impact?  What is important to us?  What are our values that are important to us?  Certainly, a lot of conversation going on in the U.S. around equity and inclusion, and I think that becomes part of what has to be baked into policy.  But I think for me the top issue is – is that – how do we set the vision and then how do we allow the organizations that are supposed to respond to the market respond to the market?  And I think those are two huge elements, and – I guess the last one would be, again, this recognition that in some ways the autonomy of the local region to respond is also pretty key.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  I know we have a question coming in in the chat, but it hasn’t – it’s – the journalist is still typing.  So we’ll come back to him.

In the meanwhile, I know that your organization is getting ready to convene all – many workforce development boards throughout the United States, and maybe you could preview what I believe is The Forum and give us some highlights of some of the conversations that you think are going to be had.

MR PAINTER:  Yeah, thanks, Daphne.  That’s a great promo; I appreciate that.  Yeah, we do an annual event that’s called The Forum.  It is coming up in Washington, D.C. June 24, 25, and 26.  And we – if anybody from the press is interested, we can certainly connect with them or you can help us connect with them to attend.

We are going to be talking about things like where are we, so people like – organizations like JFF, Burning Glass, Goodwill Industries, private sector employers like Snap-on Tools, Lincoln Electric, Lockheed Martin, McDonald’s, are going to be joining us for those conversations.  So we focus a good deal on policy, where are we as an industry, where do we need to go, but we are also going to have a lot of promising practices, workforce boards demonstrating what was an issue in their region, how did they approach that issue, what were the partnerships that were necessary to solve their market problem.  So we’re very excited.  We think it’s a critical time for this conversation on where are we going; as an industry, where are we going?

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  We’d be happy to share any press-related materials about that and invitations, pass them on to the journalists who are attending today, so thank you for that.

MR PAINTER:  Great, great.  We would welcome that.

MODERATOR:  Thank you, and —

MR PAINTER:  And I think we’re also – we’re also having some of the learning providers who are going to be joining us for those conversations as well.  How does – we’ve learned a lot in e-learning; we’ve come a long way.  So what is the current state of that and how do we better utilize it?

MODERATOR:  Great.  So the next question, actually, this journalist is going to ask it themselves.  Let me call on Kanwal.  Kanwal, can you introduce yourself and your outlet, please?

Kanwal, are you there to ask your own question?

QUESTION:  Hello?

MODERATOR:  Yes, go ahead, please.

QUESTION:  Can you hear me?

MODERATOR:  Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION:  Yeah, hi, how are you?  Yes, yes, okay.  Thanks for doing this call.  I would like to ask, as the economy reopens, whether it’s in Pakistan or in America, a lot of people are getting forced to be vaccinated.  Either – they have the choice, get vaccinated or be fired.  So it’s causing a lot of mental problems, fights between the families.  So what do you think is a general solution to it?

MR PAINTER:  To be honest, the question of whether the employer has the authority to do that is, I admit, out of my paygrade.  That’s a legal question and that will be debated.

I can say that one of the things that we have done – and a salute to the National Institute of Health here in the U.S. and to their mental health crew who have been working with us in the pandemic to help us, help our members understand the impact of the pandemic on our collective mental health.  So it’s really been very valuable.  What are their local resources?  How do you – how do we engage just with our own staff?  How do we look at what are some signs that somebody may be struggling?

I think there has been a greater – I think there is a greater recognition that the pandemic has had impact on people’s mental health.  And I would hope – going back to the question earlier, and I would hope that it’s sensitized HR professionals and people in our industry to be more aware of that, to take that into consideration as an important piece of workforce development.  We’ve recognized that financial literacy is important, digital literacy is important.  I think it’s – I think recognizing that mental health is an important ingredient in somebody’s career and work readiness.

MODERATOR:  Thank you so much for that question and response.  We have time for maybe one more question.  If anyone has it, they can raise their hand or indicate it in the chat box.  Well, I’m also happy to connect with you after, Mr. Painter, and your press team if there are other questions that come in after this briefing.

I think that concludes today’s briefing.  I want to thank you so much for sharing your time, imparting your knowledge with us, wish you luck at the upcoming Forum.  This briefing was on the record.  We will share the transcript as soon as it’s available.  And I just want to thank everyone for participating.  Have a good day.

MR PAINTER:  Thank you, Daphne.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future