Policymakers and leading experts develop state and local solutions for challenges of a changing workplace

Washington, DC – A newly released set of extensive recommendations for state and local elected officials to address the future of work features input from Senator Kerry Donovan (D-Vail), recognizing her as one of the nation’s most innovative state policymakers on economic issues.

The policy agenda, issued by the NewDEAL Forum, draws from the work of innovative policymakers, as well as input from leading think tanks and members of the private sector. Proposals are accompanied by an appendix of more than 20 specific programs, laws, and pieces of proposed legislation from policy experts and elected officials across the country who are concerned that public policy has not kept pace as globalization and technological innovation have transformed the modern workplace.

“Senator Donovan’s contributions to this agenda were tremendously valuable,” said NewDEAL Forum Executive Director Debbie Cox Bultan. “Any attempt to update public policies for the future of work must recognize the growing divide between rural and urban communities that has been exacerbated in the new economy. We have learned a lot from Senator Donovan about what is required to better support rural economic growth and now more leaders across the country will also have the opportunity benefit from her work.”

The agenda draws from Donovan’s work, including her efforts to expand access to broadband for rural Colorado and to advocate for her bill on Rural Economic Advancement of Colorado Towns, which authorizes coordination of the provision of nonmonetary resources to assist with job retention or creation in rural communities experiencing a significant economic event.

“In a nation of diverse communities, solving these challenges requires state and local leadership,” write U.S. Senator Mark Warner and former Delaware Governor Jack Markell in an introduction to the recommendations from the Honorary Co-chairs of the Forum’s sister organization, NewDEAL Leaders. “But it is hard, if not impossible, for individual policymakers to research and create comprehensive policy agendas. They need workable ideas for what to do, tailored to their levels of government and areas of oversight. And that is exactly what this report by the NewDEAL Forum is all about: providing state and local elected officials with a road map of practical steps they can take to help their constituents navigate the changing world of work.”

The report lays out stark statistics, and notes that inequalities and societal divisions are exacerbated by our economic transformation, to underscore the urgency with which leaders must act. Recommendations focus on policy ideas in three key areas:

Improving Workforce Training: To address the ongoing importance of digital skills, as well as increasing impacts of automation and artificial intelligence, the initiatives proposed by the Future of Work Policy Group include career pathways that prepare students for high-demand fields, expanded apprenticeship opportunities, and tax incentives for employers to invest in training for their employees.

Modernizing the Social Safety Net: To respond to a broken worker benefit system in which a decreasing number of Americans have access to employer-provided health care and retirement, the Group proposes portable benefit structures and innovative ways to increase retirement savings, as well as other reforms to prevent people from being left behind.

Supporting Entrepreneurship and Innovation: With insufficient lending to small businesses and other barriers creating barriers for economic growth and promoting inequality, the Group proposes ways to encourage startups and small business lending, address the challenges facing rural communities, and reform occupational licensing to reduce barriers to employment and entrepreneurship.

Embedded within the sections of the report are proposals to break down barriers to success in the workplace for women, who remain primary family caregivers and have lacked access to key supports like apprenticeships.

View the full recommendations here.

“State and local policymakers are developing creative solutions to address the challenges surrounding the future of work,” said Alastair Fitzpayne, Executive Director of the Aspen Institute Future of Work Initiative. “As leaders look for policies to better support workers in a rapidly changing economy, the NewDEAL Forum’s Future of Work Policy Group has developed promising ideas to help policymakers pilot new approaches and address these challenges in their communities.”

The NewDEAL Forum Future of Work Policy Group is co-chaired by Houston City Councilwoman Amanda Edwards and Massachusetts State Senator Eric Lesser, who have worked with more than a dozen contributing elected officials, as well as the Aspen Institute and other partner organizations, to develop practical solutions that state and local officials can pursue.

“In the coming months, we plan to build on this work by disseminating the recommendations broadly and providing implementation resources for leaders interested in pursuing these ideas,” write Edwards and Lesser in the report. “At a time of unprecedented changes in our economy, all elected leaders have a responsibility to act on the future of work if we are to restore the promise of the American Dream and give everyone the chance to reach their potential.”

“These ideas are a powerful start, but they are just ideas. We urge state and local leaders of all parties and perspectives, in all places, to consider these and other ideas,” write Senator Warner and Governor Markell. “We must act like the success of our people and our nation depend upon adapting and modernizing – because it does.”