Cantwell Calls for “AI Bill” to Prepare Workers for Jobs of the Future

Cantwell: “I want at least one million people retrained and skilled.”

SEATTLE, WA – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) hosted the Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Laurie Locascio, regional AI industry leaders, representatives from the University of Washington, Washington State University, Allen Institute for AI, and the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO for a Future of AI Forum.

At the forum, the panel discussed how policy leaders can help foster innovation while ensuring that AI is deployed safely and equitably. In her remarks, Sen. Cantwell called for a new “AI Bill” to prepare workers for the coming changes, based on the successful GI Bill. She called for public-private partnerships with labor and industry and to work with community colleges and vocational training programs.

“I always like to think about World War II where the women had to go in the factories and keep [up] U.S. production,” said Sen. Cantwell. “That was a big transformation, or the transformation when the guys came home from World War II, and everybody said: ‘What's the economy of the future going to be?’ And we gave them the GI Bill, and they created it.”

“So now instead of a GI Bill, we need an AI education bill. We need a bill that says how do we educate for the future, given the impacts of AI? How do we offer the training and the skill set so people can adapt to now in their workplace? And how can we get the Department of Commerce and the Department of Labor to work together to transform the skill level of the workforce that we need for the Information Age and [the] AI revolution that's going to happen?”

Later, during a question and answer period, Sen. Cantwell said: “I want at least one million people retrained and skilled, particularly in apprentice programs, because that way you get to earn and learn. And I think the workers should be empowered with AI tools now, [as] part of that apprenticeship so their job is more effective and productive. So I do think we're going to have to figure out how to invest more in job training. We just have to do that.”

As chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Sen. Cantwell will oversee legislation affecting the AI industry. In 2021, Sen. Cantwell spearheaded passage of the CHIPS & Science Act, one of the largest five-year federal research and development investments in U.S. history. The CHIPS & Science Act also directs the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation to identify and invest in ten key technology focus areas, including artificial intelligence. Sen. Cantwell also introduced the bipartisan FUTURE of AI Act, to establish a federal advisory committee to examine the economic opportunities and impacts of AI, which helped create the National AI Advisory Committee (NAIAC).

The discussion panel included:

  • Laurie Locascio, Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology, Director National Institute for Standards and Technology;
  • Ashley Llorens, Vice President, Distinguished Scientist & Managing Director, Microsoft Research Outreach, member of the National AI Advisory Committee;
  • Swami Sivasubramanian, Vice President of Machine Learning, Amazon Web Services, member of the National AI Advisory Committee;
  • Ryan Calo, Lane Powell and D. Wayne Gittinger Professor, University of Washington School of Law, co-director, UW Tech Policy Lab, and co-founder, UW Center for an Informed Public;
  • Manoj Karkee, Professor, Washington State University, Center for Precision and Automated Agricultural Systems;
  • Ali Farhadi, CEO, Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence; and
  • Cherika Carter, Secretary Treasurer of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO

The event, hosted in downtown Seattle, also included a showcase with nearly a dozen regional AI companies, along with the panel discussion on Washington state’s role as a leader in AI. Showcase exhibitors included Ai2, Calmwave, Carbon Robotics, Glowforge, Metrolla, PNNL, Strella, WSU AgAID, Yoddli, and more.

Photos from today’s event are available HERE, video HERE, and a transcript of Sen. Cantwell’s opening remarks is available HERE. A livestream of the event is available HERE.