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Cabinet Meeting Remarks on Workforce Training


The President’s tax cuts and regulatory reform are creating a new wave of growth in our advanced manufacturing and technology industries, along with demand for thousands of skilled workers.

Our strengthening economy is a godsend for many millions of Americans who want to be part of the workforce, and who now have the opportunity to participate productively in our economy.

The lack of adequately trained workers is a major issue for American employers, and it is being rightfully addressed by the new Executive Order on Workforce Development and the creation of the new Council for the American Worker, for which I am most honored to be a Co-Chair with Ivanka Trump, Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, and Andrew Bremberg of the White House Domestic Policy Council.

Since November 2016, 876,000 new jobs have been created in the industries that produce goods, including 411,000 construction jobs; 374,000 manufacturing jobs; and 91,000 mining and logging jobs. This past June alone, 53,000 new jobs were created in these industries, including 36,000 manufacturing jobs.

These sectors produce the wealth, the technological innovation, and the high-paying jobs needed for a modern industrial economy. It is imperative that we keep this momentum going.

As you know, Foxconn broke ground late last month on a $10-billion factory in Mt. Pleasant, Wisconsin, that will employ 13,000 workers making state-of-the-art LCD screens. Not far from the Foxconn facility is a new manufacturing plant being built by Haribo to produce gummy bears in North America for the first time. The company will hire 1,450 workers.

What does a plant that makes high-tech screens have in common with one that makes gummy bears? Both represent advanced manufacturing. They will be utilizing the latest and most modern computer-aided design and manufacturing production lines, utilizing robotics and autonomous systems.

Both facilities will need thousands of highly skilled workers, not only on the factory floor, but off the factory floor, in IT, and in the programming of software systems for production, relational databases, customer support, supply-chain management, logistics, online sales, marketing, and distribution. In other words, the entire business enterprise is based on digital systems, and every business function — as per the Internet-of-Things — now requires advanced digital skillsets.

Foxconn, Haribo and hundreds of other companies that are expanding their operations in the United States will need thousands of highly skilled workers adept at digital technologies not only on the factory floor, but throughout the entire business enterprise.  They will also need workers at the highest end of the skills spectrum, and we don’t have enough of them.

In 2016, there were 4,000 fewer full-time American STEM graduate students than there were in 2009. At the same time, the number of foreign, full-time STEM graduate students has increased by almost 70,000 since 2009, and they mostly return to their home country.

The shortage of the most highly trained technologists and engineers is both an economic and a national security issue. One of the biggest risks our employers and our military contractors face is having foreign nationals steal their most important asset — their intellectual property — and provide it to our overseas competitors.

Last week, Apple filed criminal charges against one of its former Chinese employees for stealing its IP involving the company’s autonomous vehicle development program. That engineer is accused of providing trade secrets to Apple’s potential competitor in China called XMotors.

Training thousands more Americans for these sophisticated engineering jobs would substantially reduce these types of risks. The burden of filling the skills gap is falling directly on employers. Organizations with more than 100 employees had to spend $91 billion on worker training last year, almost 30 percent more than in 2016.

These numbers echo what I experienced as being Vice-Chair of the Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion. That Task Force accomplished a great deal, outlining key reforms that the Department of Labor is making to the apprenticeship system.

President Trump’s new Executive Order now creates the National Council for the American Worker to look at systemic issues that span our entire education and training system. It also establishes a new American Workforce Policy Advisory Board, to be housed at the Department of Commerce. 

We will raise awareness of the job opportunities that are available for skilled American workers. We will recognize the companies and organizations that are successfully closing the skills gap.

Again, I look forward to co-chairing this new Council and working with its members, along with those who will be part of the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board.