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Americans Agree: We Need to Help Each Other

Published Feb 24, 2021 by Susan Moore

People walking in downtown Houston

"The COVID-19 pandemic has left many people at risk, and we need to help each other."

This is according to results from a new survey developed by Gallup in partnership with Carnegie Corporation of New York to understand issues facing Americans today and has strong implications for recovery efforts and long-term workforce development plans. The "Back to Work: Listening to Americans" survey, conducted in October and November of 2020, explored how Americans view national challenges amid the COVID-19 pandemic and on a national program combining paid work with relevant education or training – segmented by Democrat and Republican party affiliations. 

The survey found that respondents from both parties overwhelmingly agree on two overarching points: “1) Many people are at risk, and we need to help each other, and 2) we can do that by providing millions of people who have lost their jobs during the pandemic with a combination of paid work and training opportunities over the next few years,” the study states.

Survey results provide insights into solutions that could help Americans emerge from the pandemic as a stronger society, LaVerne Evans Srinivasan, vice president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York’s national program and education program director, said during a release event. 

Support appears to go beyond the crisis at hand; Americans appear to favor finding creative solutions to long-term challenges, like helping workers become better prepared to meet current labor market needs. Strong cross-party consensus reflected by survey responses indicates that Americans are united in recognizing the need good employment and skill-building programs. 

Specifically, the study shows:

  • More than nine in 10 Americans (93 percent) surveyed said they favor a national initiative that creates paid work and job training opportunities as part of a pandemic recovery effort. Consensus on this across party divisions is significant, even as Republicans and Democrats reached the same opinion for different reasons.
  • 62 percent of Americans surveyed said coupling paid work with education or training opportunities is the best way to prepare people for future jobs.
  • Americans listed the rising number of long-term unemployed individuals among their most urgent concerns. As of January, four million Americans had been unemployed for at least six months (nearly 40 percent of the total unemployed population), the report says.

The report also notes that young workers are overrepresented among industries that have been hardest hit by the pandemic, and that income inequity has risen over the last few years in part due to automation of many lower-skills jobs and uneven access to higher-paying jobs and education individuals need to obtain them.

The full survey report pinpoints discrepancies along party lines in areas including the most important criteria in an economic recovery plan for 2021, the greatest barriers to getting people back to work, and who (federal, state or local governments) should determine how a national jobs-and-training program would be implemented, among other survey points.

During a release event panel discussion, former Delaware Governor Jack Markell said today’s leaders should listen to their local communities to understand the challenges residents face, understand and invest in programs and efforts that work well, and bring together employers and job seekers. He pointed to a lack of collaboration and communication between employers and training providers, specifically around the skills and abilities employers seek, that has doomed numerous past workforce development programs to fail; he also stressed the importance of improving counseling for job seekers, whether they are students or adults who are ready to upskill. 

His comments resonated with Ardine Williams, vice president of workforce development for Amazon’s HQ2. Williams emphasized that programs have to add skills to experience and grow worker capability, and alignment between training providers and local employers that are hiring is necessary for these programs to work. She said alignment comes from collaboration and establishing the skills and abilities employers seek, which would remove friction from the system. She cautioned that streamlining programs Williams called for business leaders to recognize a skilled workforce as community asset and a “flywheel" that accelerates growth that is good for business.

In 2020, the UpSkill Houston initiative released a report that underscores the need for greater Houston’s workforce stakeholders to develop a well-conceived, regional framework to guide workers as they make decisions about investing limited time and resources to pursue greater economic opportunity and prosperity. 

The report, titled “Navigating the Changing Nature of Work,” explores the significant risk of disruption and shifting job tasks for the region’s low- and middle-skill workforce that would come with increased integration of various automation technologies into the workforce. Strong digital skills are becoming increasingly necessary for workers, regardless of their industry, occupation or education level, the report states. It also emphasizes urgency for workforce development stakeholders to identify and map viable and desirable upskilling career progressions and support workers’ continual growth and learning.

UpSkill Houston is the Partnership’s nationally recognized, employer-led initiative that mobilizes the collective action of employers, educators and community-based leaders to strengthen the talent pipeline the region’s employers need to grow their businesses and to help all Houstonians develop relevant skills and connect to good careers that increase their economic opportunity and mobility.

UpSkill Houston is currently working with employers, education and training providers and community-based organizations to:

  • Help employers and their talent acquisition teams address the skills gaps by building talent pipelines for occupations that require less than a four-year college degree;
  • Partner with the region’s community colleges and United Way of Greater Houston and its THRIVE network of community partners in working with individuals in the region who lost their jobs because of the pandemic to upskill themselves into new roles; and 
  • Share innovations and best practices in career coaching to assist individuals in navigating their upskilling journey.


Learn more about the UpSkill Houston initiative, and get involved.

Executive Partners