Biden: Infrastructure Investment, Workforce Development Keys to Strengthening Middle Class

By Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch
Nov 13 2014 |
Photo by Scott Paul via Instagram

Vice President Joe Biden gets a lot of flak for the occasional gaffe or verbal misstep — but sometimes, the man just knows how to go after our own heart.

Biden delivered the keynote address at the Career and Technical Education (CTE) Workforce Development Summit on Thursday. Hosted by our friends at the AFL-CIO and American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the summit centered on the importance of career and technical education in preparing young people for college and other career pathways, including in manufacturing.

During his remarks, the Veep focused on the need to strengthen America’s middle class, outlining three steps to rebuild the bridge that will lift more people into the middle class: addressing income inequality, investing in our infrastructure, and enhancing the workforce.

It wasn’t much of a big surprise when Biden brought up infrastructure, of course. He’s been sounding the alarm about why infrastructure investment is so vital for quite a long time, and he explained why:

“Not only does it create the jobs for doing the job of building the infrastructure, it starts a virtuous cycle. It attracts businesses from around the world who want to invest in the United States, because businesses want to be where they can get their product, the materials they need, to the floor as rapidly as possible and off the floor as cheaply as possible. That’s why they come.”

As Biden himself might say, infrastructure investment could be a big f—ing deal for job creation. Researchers at Duke University found that fully funding our transportation infrastructure needs could create 2.5 million new jobs.

You can help — click here to tell Congress to invest in infrastructure.

That’s not the only thing we can do to strengthen the middle class, according to Biden — workforce training also is vital for America’s future. Six out of 10 jobs in the next 10 years will require education beyond high school, from training programs that last a few months to advanced degrees, the VP said.

Businesses and labor unions can (and should) work together to provide that training, Biden noted. He also touted the importance of community colleges, which he called the “best kept secret” in America:

“They’re the most flexible institutions we have. They’re adaptable, and that’s where this all comes in. You know, the fact of the matter is that they can accommodate apprenticeships, and future job training, they can change lives. And that’s why we invested billions of dollars in connecting businesses to community colleges, to organized labor, to those looking for work. Determine what skills local employers need, what they’re looking for, design a curriculum and equip the students with those skills.”

Americans want to work, and they are more than willing to put in the work to gain the skills they need to succeed in fields such as manufacturing. We have to make sure these workers have the chance, and that’s why training programs at community colleges and vocational high schools are so important, along with labor-business partnerships and apprenticeship programs. 

During his remarks, Biden also touted the recent growth in the number of manufacturing jobs. Unfortunately, President Obama is still 782,000 jobs away from reaching his goal of creating 1 million new manufacturing jobs in his second term. That's why we think Biden could add a few more things to his list of ways to strengthen the middle class, including ending currency manipulation.