Delta Variant Blues

Here we go again. The pandemic tide has turned for the worse, and we’re all getting reacquainted with uncertainty: unpredictable schedules, scrambling for child care, relying on family and neighbors just to make the day work, inadequate school instruction, unexpected expenses, and the constant stress of health and safety concerns.

These are all features of daily life for low-income families. This was their daily life before March 2020, and the challenges have only intensified throughout the pandemic.

Our nation is at an inflection point across a number of issues, including workforce. We are seeing the familiar call for investments in skills and training, and we know those investments are badly needed. But skills won’t address the challenges listed above.

Now is the time to change the conditions that are really getting in the way of workers’ success.

When it comes to health, we understand that medical care and lifestyle account for only about half of what determines a person’s health. The rest are socially determined — education, employment status, housing, family and relationships, etc.

Now is the time to start recognizing the social determinants of work. Education and skills are just part of the equation. Across our network, workforce leaders are frustrated by the lack of affordable child care, transportation, housing, and mental health services. My colleagues Janice Urbanik (in one of her last calls to action before retirement) and Lisa Chensvold have written a new piece about these issues, and I encourage you to read it.

We may have the Delta variant blues, but we know where we need to go.

Amanda Cage

-- President and CEO, National Fund for Workforce Solutions