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Remarks by Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross at the 5th American Workforce Policy Advisory Board Meeting

AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY

Thank you, Ivanka, for your dedication to America’s workers and for shepherding this initiative over the past year. And thank you for leading this timely and important call. We greatly appreciate the Board members’ desire to contribute immediately to the nation’s economic recovery policy discussions and not wait until our next scheduled meeting for late June.

We also thank the Board Members who are working with the White House as part of the Great American Economic Revival Industry Groups. If at any time your civic engagement and commitment to the future of our great nation is needed, it is right now.

Since we last met, so much has fundamentally changed for our world, our country, our families, friends, employees, and our organizations. The pandemic has taken the lives of 90,000 Americans. We pray for them, their loved ones, and all those on the front lines of this battle.

COVID-19 also abruptly ended our strong economic expansion and unemployment rates that were at record lows. Since the abrupt shutdown of the American economy, tens of millions of workers have been involuntarily sidelined from the labor force. I am pleased that our Board is meeting today to discuss ideas to address this historic challenge.

Your Call-to-Action is thoughtful, substantial, and timely. It outlines recommendations you have developed for a sustained effort by the Administration, Congress, states, business, labor, and educational organizations, and others. In your own words, this Call-to-Action is profoundly urgent.

And this is just the start. We will discuss the essential need to connect displaced workers to upskilling and reskilling pathways. There is no doubt that the economy will bounce back with an even more rapid adoption of new technologies, new products, and new services. Companies will need highly skilled workers to fill highly technical positions.

Furthermore, we will confer today on the need to ensure workers have access to online tools and distance learning to guide them toward good jobs as the health crisis abates and the economy recovers.

Later, we will hear updates on the Multiple Pathways campaign and on the positive progress made with the pilot projects run by the Interoperable Learning Records working group.

Finally, Ivanka will discuss the next steps in the Call-to-Action and what will be required for all of us as members of this Advisory Board.

We must learn and apply the lessons of this crisis and improve the resiliency of the U.S. economy. We must ensure all of society can access digital learning and the digital economy by expanding broadband access. And we must do whatever we can to reshore industries that are critical to the health, safety, and economic security of all Americans.

As we look toward the safe reopening of our economy, we must not lose sight of the fact that the implacable and deeply embedded American culture of hard work, entrepreneurship, risk-taking, and innovation remains strongly intact. The ingrained spirit of American optimism, and our repeated ability to rise to any challenge, provides our nation with a firm foundation for a rapid rebound.

Thank you, and I look forward to our discussion.

Leadership