Bipartisan Senate Bill Would Measure Impact of Automation with Eye Toward DOL Workforce Development Programs

June 21, 2019

Sens. Gary Peters (D-MI) and Todd Young (R-IN) introduced a measure that would track the impact of automation and establish an advisory board to counsel the Department of Labor (DOL) on new workforce development policy initiatives.

The Workforce Data for Analyzing and Tracking Automation Act (S.1738) would “authorize the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)—with the assistance of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine—to record the effect of automation on the workforce and measure those trends over time, including job displacement, the number of new jobs created, and the shifting of in-demand skills,” according to the Senators.  Under the bill the BLS would report its findings within two years after its passage.

It also would establish a workforce advisory board comprised of business and labor leaders to advise the DOL on which types of public and private sector initiatives can promote consistent workforce development improvements.

“It’s clear that automation is rapidly changing the way our workforce operates,” Sen. Young said.  “We must be able to track those changes to support workers needing to adapt to changing technology.”

Why it matters:  The legislation signals bipartisan interest to address what many perceive as a long-term workforce crisis.  However, it would only gather data and advise the DOL, and has not gained momentum in Congress.  If the perceived crisis occurs, the bill may be remembered mainly as an indication of Congress' attention to other priorities.