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Op-Ed by Wilbur Ross and Eugene Scalia: America's broad-based effort to get workers better jobs

Last week, the Ad Council and some of the nation’s leading companies launched an advertising campaign that reflects a promising change in how employers view the training and credentials American workers need to land a job.

Called “Find Something New,” the campaign is led by the Ad Council, Apple and IBM, and more than 200 other respected companies and organizations. It’s an outgrowth of the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board, created by President Donald Trump two years ago to encourage investment by the private sector and education institutions in the skills of American workers.

At the heart of the ad campaign is recognition that American workers and businesses have a shared interest in developing high-quality skills for the workplace — and that this doesn’t necessarily require a four-year degree. Instead, there are a broad range of courses, certifications, and apprenticeships that give workers the skills they need for growing fields like health care, cybersecurity, and the skilled trades.

That’s why, last month, the president initiated a major change in hiring practices for the nation’s largest employer. Under the president’s order, the federal government will no longer require job applicants to have a college degree unless the degree, or some other minimum educational qualification, is “legally required” by the state or locality where the job is to be performed.

The president’s order is similar to programs at IBM and other leading American companies that focus on skills-based hiring, with less emphasis on whether workers have a college degree.

The “Find Something New” campaign (findsomethingnew.org) directs workers to an abundance of pathways to develop the skills companies are looking for, including flexible options like apprenticeships and online certification programs. The site also includes information on careers to consider in growing areas of the economy, and a directory of support resources, like child care.

The campaign is one of a number of programs launched earlier in the Trump administration that now will prove especially valuable as Americans seek to return to the workplace following the disruption of coronavirus.

In March, the Department of Labor adopted a new rule providing for Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Programs, or IRAPs. Apprenticeships are an exceptionally effective workplace training model — they’re paid positions, so workers “earn while they learn,” and acquire skills the employer fully expects to need in the workplace. The department’s IRAP rule gives flexibility to adapt apprenticeships to fields where historically they’ve been less common, like cybersecurity and advanced manufacturing. Workers’ skills and opportunities will both be enhanced.

The Department of Commerce, meanwhile, will continue to invest in Opportunity Zones to spur economic development in underserved communities. Since fiscal year 2018, the department has invested nearly $478.5 million in 358 Opportunity Zone projects around the country. Across the federal government, 300 different programs have been targeted, streamlined, or coordinated to advance the development of Opportunity Zones.

Most important, the president will continue to pursue the pro-growth policies that created a record job market for American workers before coronavirus arrived. In February of this year, unemployment was at 3.5 percent, 7 million jobs had been created since the President’s inauguration, and wages were rising — and rising more quickly for lower wage workers.

We’re now in the process of bringing that economy back, with nearly 5 million jobs added to the economy in June alone. One important part of our effort will be ensuring that workers have even better access to the skills and training needed to flourish in our nation’s ever-evolving economy.

Wilbur Ross heads the U.S. Department of Commerce. Eugene Scalia heads the U.S. Department of Labor.

Leadership