WASHINGTON—More than 300 companies and organizations said they would support the White House’s workforce initiative, committing to train over 12 million Americans to help them gain new job skills over the next five years.
Company executives and workers on July 25 joined the president at the White House to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the “Pledge to America’s Workers,” an initiative to address the workforce skills shortage problem in the country.
President Donald Trump signed an executive order in July last year to kick-start a national strategy to train and re-skill the U.S. workforce.
“The president’s call to action for the pledge has become a full-blown national movement,” Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and senior adviser, said during the event. She and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross are spearheading the workforce development initiative.
Over the past year, more than 300 companies and organizations—large and small—have signed the pledge to train, and “today, we celebrate reaching 12 million pledged commitments,” she said.
Historic labor-market tightness, combined with years of underinvestment in technical jobs training, has made it very difficult for businesses to fill job openings. As of the end of May, there were 7.3 million unfilled jobs while the unemployment rate stands at 3.7 percent, near the lowest level in 50 years.
Businesses are now competing to attract workers and drawing more people off the sidelines into the workforce.
Ivanka Trump said the program will help not only students but also mid- to late-career workers who need to learn new skills “because of the consequences and effects of automation in this rapidly changing technological environment.”
Speaking at the event, Trump said, “Companies have stepped up to the plate and so many companies have done thousands and thousands of jobs and the training for these jobs.”
“Companies can train so much better than governments. Governments get into that and they really don’t have a clue as to what they’re doing and it costs a lot of money.”
Big Commitment From Manufacturers
The National Association of Manufacturers on July 25 announced that it would offer training opportunities to 1.2 million manufacturing workers.
“This is really just a start. We think that’s a conservative number,” Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, said at the event.
“We have 500,000 open jobs in manufacturing today,” he said, adding that the association sought to attract more workers to the sector and also retrain and up-skill existing manufacturing workers.
A report by Deloitte Consulting and the Manufacturing Institute, earlier found that about 2 million positions in the manufacturing sector would go unfilled in the next 10 years unless the skills-gap problem is resolved.
Other big contributions to the pledge have come from companies such as Walmart and Salesforce.com, each pledging to train a million Americans within the next five years.
As the U.S. economy continues to expand, investment in workforce education and training have never been more important to sustain growth, according to the National Skills Coalition. Nearly 80 percent of jobs require some form of education or training beyond high school.
Foreign companies are also jumping on the bandwagon. In June, executives of more than 65 foreign firms from 12 countries signed the “Pledge to America’s Workers” at an investment summit in Washington, committing to train and re-skill nearly 930,000 Americans.
Among them was a German company, CompuGroup Medical, which provides IT solutions for the health care industry. The company has so far invested $150 million for its operations in the United States and hired 200 Americans. The IT firm, which has offices in four U.S. states, pledged to invest and hire more people in coming years, said Oliver Bruzek, CompuGroup’s chief communications officer.
The United States is full of “innovative people” and “innovative ideas,” Bruzek said.