Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del., is calling for more policies to build a diverse workforce in order for America to maintain technological leadership.

At a Feb. 14 event hosted by the Information Technology Industry Council and Bridge for Innovation, Rep. Blunt Rochester said the United States needs to provide more opportunities to diverse researchers if it wants to keep up with global competitors.

“As a country, if we’re going to be able to compete, we need to be premier in research and development, and we need to be providing opportunities for diverse researchers,” Rep. Blunt Rochester said. “It goes back to… even about the technology, who’s developing the technology who’s asking the questions – that’s equally as important.”

In order to provide those opportunities, Rep. Blunt Rochester said it comes down to building a diverse workforce, and “paying attention to who you hire, how you hire them, the recruitment, the retention.”

While some believe building a talent pipeline starts in grade school, Rep. Blunt Rochester said she believes building that pipeline actually starts “at birth.” This means investing in programs so that families have access to healthcare, pre-kindergarten, and childcare, “because when you start behind, it’s hard to catch up,” she said.

Investing in education is also a “big part of the pipeline,” as is looking to recruit employees from minority-serving colleges and universities, she said.

“We have schools like our HBCUs, our historically black colleges and universities, and our minority-serving institutions that are also great pipelines and places for employers to actually find incredible talent,” Rep. Blunt Rochester said. “Again, looking in the places that you might not have looked before.”

Rep. Blunt Rochester is one of the co-founders of the Congressional Future of Work Caucus. The inspiration for the caucus, she said, was to create an environment to “have real policy discussions in a safe space.”

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“We’ve been able to touch on all kinds of things, everything from future of work in rural America to dealing with displaced workers,” she said of the caucus. “Our goal is to have a vision for our country and be able to do it together.”

“Just looking at the data of our changing demographics around the globe and here at home should signal to us that we’ve got to make changes in the way that we work and the way that we live and the way that we do policy even,” Rep. Blunt Rochester said. “Everything from the ethnic and racial diversity, to our LGBTQ+ community, to individuals with disabilities, and … aging population, all of these different things have impact on our workforce, and how we live and work.”

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.