Guest column:

We all have a stake in preparing for jobs of the future

All states — rural or urban, mountain or coast, northeastern or southwestern — face current and future challenges with the changing nature of work and its impact on workers.

Technological changes are exponential, and our education and training systems must increasingly look to innovative ways to keep up with these shifts. Jobs exist today that didn’t just a decade ago, and none of us can know what jobs will be available for our children when they are ready to enter the workforce of the future. These changes in how we approach work are contributing to an expanding skills gap, which results in many jobs going unfilled. At the same time, many workers are being left behind.

The future of our workforce and how we go about ensuring that all Americans have opportunities to expand their upward mobility isn’t just an issue facing our largest cities or most rural communities. It’s one that crosses both geographical and political boundaries — and one that requires a bipartisan approach to solutions.

As chair of the National Governors Association, I am dedicating the next year to elevating this conversation on the national level by encouraging other governors and thought leaders to develop innovative solutions to address the future trends affecting work, retrain mid-career workers for second careers, and engage in the resurgence of rural communities.

Along with NGA’s vice chair, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, I am excited to hold in Las Vegas the second regional workshop for the Good Jobs for All Americans initiative. Las Vegas, like many cities across the country, has a proud history of hard work. It is also a place that struggled during the Great Recession, with unemployment rates peaking at 14.1 percent in 2010. However, thanks to strong leadership from Gov. Brian Sandoval and his dedication to supporting innovative, collaborative approaches, such as expanding work-based learning opportunities across Nevada, the unemployment rate in Las Vegas is now lower than 5 percent.

Sandoval and his team are addressing these new challenges to the workforce we are facing, in Las Vegas and the rest of the country, with the same tenacity and understanding they did in addressing past struggles. In Nevada, the Office of Workforce Innovation has partnered with businesses and training providers to create apprenticeship programs targeted to the industries of the future, including a new program in cybersecurity. Even in his final months in office, Sandoval and his team continue to meet with business leaders, ensuring that public programs respond directly to private industry needs.

We have a lot to learn from Nevada as we continue such conversations across the country. We can also learn from what we have accomplished in Montana, working together to ensure that people have access to quality education and training programs to help them secure good-paying jobs today and prepare them for the jobs of the future. We are investing in education and work-based learning, while diversifying our economy and the opportunities for job creators and workers. Montana actually led the nation in middle-class growth from 2013 to 2016.

We know we must involve business leaders, along with current and future workers, to ensure that we are making available the right opportunities at the right time. We must ensure that folks not currently engaged with the labor market, particularly in underserved populations and those in rural areas, have the right tools and access to receive the education and training needed to enter the workforce. And finally, for underemployed workers, we must make it easier to find a more consistent career path to a good job.

As the nation’s governors, we are leading the charge to forge these pathways for current, future and underemployed workers. The future prosperity of our states, and our entire country, relies on our ability to keep pace with these changing workforce needs. We know that opportunities are within our grasp for every American worker, and that done right, we can ensure that all Americans have an equal shot at a better life, no matter where they live.

Steve Bullock, a Democrat, has been the governor of Montana since 2013 and is the current chair of the National Governors Association, a nonpartisan association of the nation’s governors.