Time to tackle the pandemic’s economic disruptions

President Joe Biden expressed hope in March that July 4 would “mark our independence” from the coronavirus. And with each shot in the arm, the president’s goal looks increasingly achievable.

But as the very worst of the pandemic fades, the economic disruption we’ve experienced is only beginning to emerge.

As a result of the pandemic and accelerating digital transformation, nearly 17 million U.S. workers will need to find new occupations by 2030 — and a recent rise in wages signals a troubling pandemic-related trend. According to White House economists, average wages increased as high-paid workers remained employed and as many low-paid workers lost their jobs.

We can address these challenges by focusing on two key priorities.

First, it’s critical that we implement policies supporting the growth of high-wage jobs. Second, this is a moment when the country needs an inclusive workforce development agenda that brings more people into the process, creates more opportunity for all, and strives not to leave anybody behind.

One of the most effective ways to create more high-wage jobs is by revitalizing investment in America by international companies like ours, which have long recognized our nation’s skilled workforce, diverse consumer base and entrepreneurial business climate.

In just the past two decades, Siemens has invested $40 billion to strengthen its U.S. operations, home to 26 manufacturing sites and 40,000 employees whose technical skills range from advanced R&D research to engineering roles and skilled trades such as machining, welding, and maintaining automation systems. Panasonic has invested in the U.S. for over 60 years and employs nearly 15,000 Americans, including highly skilled technicians, engineers and chemists.

This is just a small sample of the millions of high-quality U.S. jobs supported by international companies, which today directly employ nearly 8 million U.S. workers, including 22 percent of America’s manufacturing workforce. Over the past five years, international companies have created 80 percent of all new U.S. manufacturing jobs while supporting extensive U.S. supply chains.

Yet according to the most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, annual investments from international companies into the U.S. hit the lowest level in more than a decade. While the pandemic played a role in that decline, last year marked a staggering 63 percent drop in annual foreign direct investment (FDI) flows since the high reached in 2016.

Last week, the effort to revitalize FDI in the U.S. was aided by the SelectUSA Investment Summit, which we both participated in. The event emphasized to would-be employers from 70 markets worldwide why America remains a great place to invest and create jobs. And President BidenJoe BidenObama: Ensuring democracy ‘continues to work effectively’ keeps me ‘up at night’ New Jersey landlords prohibited from asking potential tenants about criminal records Overnight Defense: Pentagon pulling some air defense assets from Middle East | Dems introduce resolution apologizing to LGBT community for discrimination | White House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine MORE’s speech at the summit, as well as the participation of Commerce Secretary Gina RaimondoGina RaimondoTime to tackle the pandemic’s economic disruptions Chinese apps could face subpoenas, bans under Biden executive order: report US, EU establish trade and technology council to compete with China MORE and seven of her fellow Cabinet members, signaled the administration’s interest in ensuring America leads on the global stage.

We welcome the administration’s emphasis on working with America’s friends and allies to confront major issues facing our nation and planet.

We also are encouraged by the administration’s passion for bold infrastructure investment put forward in the American Jobs Plan, an ambitious proposal to raise the bar for America’s economic competitiveness, strengthen local supply chains, and create jobs in high-wage industries.

Notably, the American Jobs Plan would also chart a new era for workforce development by expanding access to high-quality, demand-driven affordable job training.

The U.S. has long invested less in workforce development compared to other industrialized nations. This needs to change as digital technology transforms skillsets.

A generation ago, most jobs running America’s industry and infrastructure did not require education beyond high school. Today, the vast majority of these roles require post-secondary education and training rooted in STEM accessed at a community college or through an apprenticeship.

Instead of citing a national skills gap, let’s recognize that the country really has a national training gap. Let’s commit ourselves to ensuring that all workers can quickly upskill or retrain, and that students feel inspired to pursue these too-often-overlooked career pathways. As part of this effort, we must double down on initiatives to promote STEM opportunities with women and underserved communities across the country.

Increased investment across both the public and private sectors will sow the seeds for stronger partnerships among business, government, education, and philanthropy that prepare workers for the jobs of the future or to get hired today in high-paying industries that have a record number of job openings.

So, yes, we are relieved to witness the emergence of a new normal. Yet moments of disruption also present us with the opportunity to shape the future we want. And rather than focus on getting back to where we were, international companies like ours stand ready to help move the country forward.

Barbara Humpton is the CEO of Siemens USA. Michael Moskowitz is the chairman and CEO of Panasonic Corporation of North America.