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Remarks by Secretary Wilbur L. Ross at White House for the First Meeting of the National Council for the American Worker


Thank you, Ivanka, for your work on this initiative. Your leadership is helping rebuild the American economy and creating good jobs for millions of Americans. I am honored that you asked me to co-chair both the National Council for the American Worker, and the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board.

The creation of these bodies could not be more timely. It is another indication of how our President is addressing one of the most important issues facing our growing economy.

The shortage of skilled workers capable of utilizing advanced technology tools is reaching epidemic proportions. Just last week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a record high number of job openings nationally — 6.9 million — including more than half a million unfilled jobs in the manufacturing sector.

The BLS data suggest that the average job opening in a manufacturing plant in the United States takes three times as long to fill now as it did at the end of the Great Recession. It is difficult to quantify the economic losses that result from companies not being able find qualified workers — but we know the impact is substantial.

Labor Secretary Acosta and his Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion showed us the multiple ways in which our educational system and training programs fail to serve our students, workers, and businesses.

The President’s Executive Order that establishes the National Council for the American Worker requires that we develop — quote: “A plan for recognizing companies that demonstrate excellence in workplace education, training and re-training policies, and investments.” The Department of Commerce is pleased to take the lead on this specific task.

Our dedicated public servants have incredible experience running national programs through which our leading companies develop and share best practices, such as the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program. The Department of Commerce will lend its full support for the other goals outlined in the Executive Order, including national campaigns to increase the adoption of education and job-training programs in local communities.

Under President Trump’s Executive Order Establishing the President’s National Council for the American Worker, the Department of Commerce is asked to appoint and administer a 25-member “American Workforce Policy Advisory Board.”

This new Presidential Advisory Board will draw upon the knowledge and expertise of its members as we develop and implement a strategy to overhaul America’s training policies and practices.

This past August 30th, the Commerce Department published a Federal Register Notice seeking nominations for the Board. The nomination period closes on October 1, 2018.

Members of the Board will include a wide range of stakeholders, including employers, labor advocates, educational and training institutions, and state governments. Together, these experts will offer diverse perspectives on how to resolve workforce issues facing communities and businesses across the country.

Once the nomination period closes on October 1, we will quickly review nominees and provide a list of the most highly qualified candidates for final selection by the President. The Advisory Board will be busy right from the start. We want its inaugural meeting to occur by early November.

We are looking for the Board to provide us with an initial set of recommendations by January 2019. We want the Board to help reinvigorate workforce development programs nation-wide, so that they truly benefit the millions of Americans seeking the fulfilling and challenging jobs of the digital era.

We look forward to working with the members of the new board, and with all of you, at putting together a strategy to fill the good jobs in the country that remain vacant. Together, and with the leadership of our President, we can make an enormous difference.

Thank you.