view | Ro Khanna brings technology education to Iowa, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina

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Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), one of the bright lights in the Democratic Party, represents A spend smack in the middle of Silicon Valley, the area where tech giants including Yahoo, McAfee, Google, and LinkedIn are headquartered. So why is the time spent this week in rural Iowa, Pennsylvania and South Carolina, where there is very little of the tech industry?

he’s there precisely because There is little technology – and many people miss out on the rise in advanced manufacturing, high-paying tech jobs (many of which do not require a college education), and the sense of belonging in the 21st century economy.

supported a program With a subscription from Google and TechWise. “The essence of the program is to get tech jobs in communities that you couldn’t reach before,” he told me in a phone interview. But to get the jobs, you first have to have technically trained workers.

Khanna helped compile a dossier Collaborative effort Among tech companies, local governments, historically black community colleges, colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions that specialize in STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. developed technology companies $5,000 per student (to allow them to focus on full-time studies), work with schools to create an 18-month technical course and assign a mentor to check in regularly with students. (Khanna candidly says that government job training programs aren’t nearly as successful as those developed with private employers, who know what skills are in demand and the job market.) Best of all: If students complete the program, they’re guaranteed a job with Google or another company. . The programs, now in 20 locations, have an 85 to 90 percent completion rate.

Khanna told me his passion is ensuring that people in rural or industrial America have “strong middle-class jobs in a technology-dominated economy.” He admitted that many people are afraid of artificial intelligence. “They should be,” he said, “but there are simple applications.” And some applications of AI can enhance jobs that we wouldn’t normally think of as “technology.”

Previous generations had to master higher-level mathematics to perform technical functions, but artificial intelligence can make technology more convenient for the operator. Khanna pointed to home healthcare workers who can rely on artificial intelligence to monitor patients, maintain appropriate diets for them, remind them when to take medications and measure blood pressure. “It doesn’t mean we send robots into people’s homes,” he joked. But it underscores how important technology is to jobs in every sector.

Khanna wrote in the Atlantic Last year, “one of the cornerstones of building a multi-ethnic, multi-religious democracy is providing everyone, everywhere with the possibility of a dignified life, which includes the potential to contribute to shaping the digital age.” He argued:

National policy makers have, to our peril, ignored the destabilization of local communities. Many have overlooked the extent to which Americans’ sense of accomplishment is connected to where we live. In an unfamiliar age, it represents the familiar home. Choosing to stay where you grew up could mean extended family members get together for weekend meals, rather than just seeing each other on FaceTime. This may mean choosing love and responsibility over professional ambitions, and prioritizing the care of an aging parent or sibling with special needs. Place as much value on some techs who can’t imagine leaving their adopted neighborhood in San Francisco as it does on parents in rural communities who don’t want to lose their children in faraway cities. What about the unemployed? …if they want to, they should be able to [move]. But no one should be forced to leave his hometown to find a decent job.

this weekAnd Khanna visits community colleges in Iowa and Pennsylvania and Benedict College, HBCU in Columbia, SC will meet with about 20 students in the program at each school. If these programs can be “scaled up,” Khanna says, he believes as many as 1 million people could be trained by the end of the decade to work in the expected 25 million jobs that require technical proficiency.

He’s under no illusions that once people get the training, you’ll see Google facilities pop up in farm country. Graduates may have to travel to centers where chip facilities originate, but the hope is that they may later return home to start their own businesses.

More importantly, the coronavirus pandemic has shown us how remote working is possible. People can live in local communities while working for companies located anywhere in the world. “They want a community,” Khanna said. “We want Americans to have a sense of community.” But, by working remotely, “they can have a new community that they get to know in every part of the world.”

Khanna was philosophical about the larger goal: to help hold the country together. We probably can’t get around the idea of ​​Jeffersonian democracy, he admitted, “but maybe we can start to thrive together. That’s a more achievable goal.” The divide between rural and urban workers (say, a fifth-generation American and a new immigrant working in a new chip factory in Ohio) might diminish if more of us worked together out of common economic self-interest.

What does Khanna need to scale this up? It needs more tech companies to buy into, for one thing. But he also says he believes the White House can help by convening a larger gathering of tech companies, educators and local governments. Khanna said President Biden “can use his convening power” to give the program a boost.

Khanna is right: we cannot sustain our democracy and our prosperity if hope and opportunity come to the shores. When workers living in rural America get their share of high-paying tech jobs, the country will undergo dramatic change economically and politically. We might even learn to love each other more.