Regional Labor Leaders Gather for Workforce and Labor Discussion

Top labor officials from Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia came together to discuss the future of labor markets and workforce development as part of the Board of Trade’s Regional Policy Leadership Series on Oct. 19. Sec. Portia Wu, Dr. Unique N. Morris-Hughes, and Sec. Bryan Slater discussed topics across the labor and workforce landscape including workforce development and retention, labor environment, intraregional cooperation, and preparing the region for the future impacts of emerging technologies like AI (Artificial Intelligence) before addressing the potential impacts of a government shutdown on the region’s labor market and economy as well and more detailed discussion of what intraregional collaboration should look like going forward.    

Sec. Portia Wu, Dr. Unique N. Morris-Hughes, and Sec. Bryan Slater each give an overview regarding labor and employment for their respective jurisdictions.

Across the region, all three jurisdictions are experiencing record low unemployment rates and are bouncing back from lower labor participation rates experienced throughout and in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. Bolstered by concerted efforts on the part of each jurisdiction to shore up existing and create new pipelines from education to the workforce, these employment numbers paint a picture of a region which is recovering rapidly from the malaise of the pandemic and working to engage young residents in the labor market to ensure that this rate of growth is stable and sustainable over time. 

Expansion of efforts to create labor pipelines from local resident students to the IT (Information Technology), Professional Services Management, and Hospitality and Tourism sectors promises to ensure that the region’s economy can be supplied with the local labor market, reinvesting in the current population. Job training programs like Virginia’s workforce innovation act, Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, and DC’s infrastructure academy represent an enormous investment in young residents and in ensuring that departments of labor and employment are able to connect students with the workforce through internship programs, apprenticeships, and signing days, offering tax credits for training programs in critical and growing industries and incentivization of youth involvement in job training programs.  

Continued investment into workforce retention programs like FAMLI and provision of mental health services at all points along the lifetime of an individual’s career promise to further improve the region’s bounce back from pandemic workforce participation levels and keep groups frequently at risk of dropping temporarily or permanently from the labor market engaged. Expanding the mental health care capacity through universal licensing recognition, telehealth services, and demand side subsidization will help to combat the burnout and provide much needed wrap around services to those working on the front lines of the economy.   

Sec. Portia Wu, Dr. Unique N. Morris-Hughes, and Sec. Bryan Slater discussed how regional jurisdictions are also preparing for the expansion of AI in the workplace.

Regional jurisdictions are also preparing for the expansion of AI in the workplace and setting out guardrails for where and how AI can be used to prevent unfair labor practices while actively utilizing artificial intelligences to ensure that every resident has the ability to start on equal ground in the labor market when searching for employment.   

Finally, panelists discussed their concerns regarding a potential government shutdown and the relative risks of a longer or shorter period as well as some loan programs designed to bridge unpaid working periods along with their desire to build a more robust model to protect the region’s largely federally reliant economy.   

Click here to watch the full interview. 

The Board of Trade will continue to connect the business community to information directly from policy makers through our Regional Policy Leadership Series (RPLS), ensuring that our members have the best up-to-date knowledge impacting regional policies. Stay tuned for our upcoming sessions with regional Senate Presidents, Attorneys General, Comptrollers, and more.  

This Regional Policy Leadership Series  webinar was presented by First National Bank. Supporting Sponsors of the event series are Comcast, Fox Rothschild LLP, Giant Food LLC, G.S. Proctor & Associates Inc., Holland & Knight LLP, McGuireWoods Consulting LLC, McGuireWoods LLP, MGM National Harbor, and Uber. Thank you for supporting the Greater Washington Board of Trade and our region’s business community.    

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