During a campaign event in the coal mining town Derry, New Hampshire on Monday, Democratic presidential hopeful and former U.S. vice president Joe Biden, advised the audience to acquire new skills to become more competitive on the job market.
More precisely, Biden told the coal miners to learn to code, adding that “anybody who can go down 300 to 3,000 feet in a mine, surely can learn to program too.”
The audience has reportedly met Biden’s advice with silence. For many Twitter users, Biden’s suggestion was reductive. Communications expert Frank Lutz said that telling people to switch careers without a plan to help them succeed would never be welcome.
The tech reporter Ed Bott commented it was a ”bad look” from Biden’s side. Congressional candidate and software engineer Brianna Wu asserted it was good to hear that you need to be in your 20’s to pursue a career in IT. On the other hand, Wu continued, Biden’s proposal is not helpful and ”tone-deaf” to the needs of the unemployed miners.
Biden’s comments come at a difficult time for the coal mining industry. The natural gas has taken a significant portion of the market share that previously belonged to the coal. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of people employed in coal mining decreased from 79,400 ten years ago to 53,300 in September 2019.
At the same time, the U.S. coal export to Europe and Asia is also suffering. Concerned about climate change, many governments have already imposed restrictions on how much fossil fuels can be imported to their countries.
Joe Biden has proposed moving the nation away from fossil fuels to combat climate change and reduce our carbon footprint. The former vice president has proposed a plan entitled ”Task Force on Coal and Power Plant Communities” to address the communities whose economy depends on mining and coal. The program aims to help coal miners finding more sustainable jobs and keep their benefits.
Similar retraining programs have already received bipartisan support. The U.S. Department of Labor allocated nearly USD 5 million for working training projects in Appalachia in 2019. Also, the National Dislocated Workers fund received a USD 3 million funding.
However, critics question the effectiveness of the retraining programs. Some displaced former coal miners do transition to other industries, but the jobs they find tend to pay USD 12 to USD 15 per hour as opposed to the USD 75,000 yearly salary they made in the mines.
What do you think? Do you support or oppose Joe Biden’s statement that coal miners should learn to code?