- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 19, 2017

NEWARK, Del. (AP) - Americans are capable of finding ways to harness automation and technological advances to spur job growth and creation, not just worrying about robots replacing humans, former Vice President Joe Biden said Tuesday.

During a discussion on job creation and the economy at the University of Delaware’s Biden Institute, a new policy and research center, the veteran politician said that although change can be unsettling, America is defined by possibilities.

“We’ve always been able to bend change to the greater good,” Biden said as he led a discussion that touched on topics ranging from education and workforce training to gender disparity and the dignity of work.

Joining Biden for the panel discussion were U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, MGM Resorts International CEO Jim Murren, former National Economic Council adviser Byron Auguste and Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union.

Panelists agreed that employers, and even jobseekers, must overcome the idea that blue-collar workers and those with little formal education aren’t capable of learning the skills they will need in an increasingly technological workplace.

“I just need willing people, and I will provide the skills,” Murren said, explaining how his company focuses on local hiring and how it reached out to vocational schools and a local community college in filling jobs at its recently opened MGM National Harbor casino in suburban Washington.

Applicants for a variety of casino jobs could go online and list the kinds of job that interested them, as well as their skills, he said.

“They could immediately find the gaps that they have, certifications they need to get, training they needed to be provided, and we helped them get that,” Murren said. “Companies that say they can’t find qualified workers, they’re not trying hard enough.”

Auguste, a former White House economic policy adviser who now runs a nonprofit he co-founded that works to expand access to career opportunities, said too many business leaders think they can’t afford the time or money to train workers to fill jobs.

“People confuse levels of education, how many years of school, with what skills you have, with what you can do,” said Auguste, who urged employers to overcome the bias that formal education is the only way to acquire advanced skills.

“”I think it’s a huge mistake. I think we’re wasting an enormous amount of talent,” he said. “…. The first thing we’ve got to do is stop prejudging what people can do and let people show what they can do.”

In a blog post a day earlier, Biden came out against universal basic income, an idea that has gained popularity among some Silicon Valley billionaires who think the government should to provide a lifetime basic level of income for workers displaced by technology.

Biden said ensuring that people can pay the rent or put food on the table might be a worthy goal, but that, as his father taught him, there’s more to a job than just bringing home a paycheck.

“What about their dignity?” he asked.

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