Innovation Corps Act of 2017 (HR 1576, 115th Congress)

The Policy

Synopsis

The Innovation Corps Act of 2017 (HR 1576) would establish a grant program and an Innovation Corps to help displaced workers who have lost their jobs to automation reenter the workforce in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields.

The grant program would be managed by the Department of Commerce and the Corporation for National and Community Service. The bill would authorize the allocation of $250 million to its operation through individual grants of no more than $5 million each. The grants would be given to institutions of higher learning for the purpose of re-training workers who have been displaced or are at risk of being displaced by automation with skills that are necessary for jobs in STEM fields.

Section 4 of the bill requires graduate volunteers, who would comprise the nationwide network called the Innovation Corps, to assist in the worker training. In this context, “graduate volunteers” are defined as individuals who have “graduated from an institution of higher education not more than 2 years before applying to become a graduate volunteer in the Innovation Corps.” The volunteers will receive a monthly stipend and would be eligible for student loan deferment and debt forgiveness for outstanding student loans. HR 1576 restricts the forgiveness of student loans and accrued interest to no more than $100,000 for any graduate volunteer who completes two years of service in the Innovation Corps.

The Science

Science Synopsis

Section 6 of HR 1576 defines automation as “the introduction of machinery into any enterprise that is intended to, or has the effect of, replacing human labor.” Examples of sectors that use automation in their workforce include:

  • Manufacturing, where machines are replacing assembly line workers;
  • Transportation, where self-driving vehicles may eventually replace professional drivers;
  • Telecommunications, such as automated telephone help lines that replace human customer service representatives; and
  • Facility operations, including automated self-check out kiosks at grocery stores and security robots.

According to a Ball State University report, approximately 87% of lost manufacturing jobs were lost due to improved productivity growth, which is due to a large extent from the growth of automation. Additionally, a report released by McKinsey & Company estimates that 45% of tasks performed on the job could be automated using current technologies. Therefore, the nature of many existing jobs may be subject to change with the introduction of new or existing technology. Section 2 of the bill acknowledges that re-training workers whose jobs have been replaced by these technologies “will be critical to maintaining the stability of the larger economy and individual families.”


The Debate

Endorsements & Opposition

At present, there has not been any publicly reported endorsement for or opposition to this bill.