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Remarks by U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross at the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board with Ivanka Trump in Charlotte, North Carolina


Thank you, Ivanka, for that kind introduction. And welcome everyone, to Charlotte. Thank you, Mayor Lyles, for hosting us today, and Barbara Humpton, for the tour of the Siemens USA facility this morning. I was even more impressed than I had anticipated. We should publicize widely the return on investment you achieve on your investment in training and your extremely high retention rate. Too many people think of training as an expense and not as a profit center, and fear loss of their newly trained workers. You have debunked both concerns.

It has been a busy week for me, having hosted the SelectUSA Investment Summit last week in Washington, and then traveling this past weekend to the Paris Air Show for the opening of the U.S. Pavilion. The economic dynamism at both events proves that the need for skilled workers will only grow.

Ivanka, thank you for joining me on stage last week to discuss workforce issues in front of more than 3,500 delegates attending the SelectUSA Investment Summit. During that three-day Summit, we met with executives from 71 countries either considering new investments, or increasing their existing capacity in the United States. 

The shortage of workers is constricting many of their investment plans.

We were told by a number of foreign firms that they are having difficulty even hiring qualified truck drivers, despite paying up to $85,000 a year. Welders and coders were also especially hard to find, as were engineers.

We all know the statistics. With the lowest unemployment rate in 50 years, there are almost 7.5 million job openings right now, but only 5.9 million Americans are officially unemployed. To me, the key target is the 37.2 percent labor force non-participation rate. Less than a 2 percent reduction in it would eliminate the gap between jobs available and people seeking work. But though the millions of Americans on the sidelines are able and willing to work, but they lack the right skills.

In the three months since this Advisory Board met for the first time at the White House, you and your teams have examined four subject areas:

•    Promoting multiple pathways to careers; 
•    Increasing data transparency; 
•    Modernizing candidate recruitment; 
•    And encouraging more employer-led training.

Today, we will hear from the co-leads from each of these working groups on your priorities and potential recommendations. 

Then, we will explore the interconnections of your work so far, and our next steps. 

Finally, we will chart a path to receiving recommendations and, most importantly, implementing them.

Again, thank you for traveling to be here with the full Board, and I look forward to today’s discussion.