The White House announced on Oct. 31 that more than 160 companies have pledged to create 6.4 million new “opportunities” for U.S. workers, which includes new jobs, apprenticeships, and on-the-job training.
The announcement comes almost a month and a half after Ivanka Trump, who is spearheading the White House’s initiative to reskill American workers, said more than 4.3 million pledges had been received from more than 100 companies.
“Our strong economy has brought a longstanding critical issue to the forefront—employers are having trouble finding enough workers with the right skills,” she said, during a conference call with reporters. “State and local governments are critical partners in scaling workforce development programs.”
The strong economy, which she attributed to a combination of deregulation and tax cuts, has created a gap between the number of jobs available and the numbers of Americans who can fill those jobs.
At the end of August, there were 7.1 million jobs available, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In the same month, there were 6.23 million unemployed, or 3.9 percent of the workforce. In September, the unemployment rate fell to 3.7 percent.
The pledges follow an executive order President Donald Trump signed in July to create the National Council for the American Worker, tasked with developing a national strategy around ensuring access to education and job training opportunities.
The White House Council of Economic Advisors (CEA) is currently looking at what job training programs the government supports, to determine which ones are effective and for which ones there isn’t enough data to evaluate. CEA Chairman Kevin Hassett’s said their first goal is to convince those who are unemployed to re-enter the workforce.
“The next step is getting the private sector involved,” he said, on a call with reporters. “The next step after that is to reform our policies. … so that when people look for training so that they can get a new job, that they can find the government training program that they need if there is not a private alternative.”
The majority of public training dollars go to workers below age 25 and the majority of private training dollars to those with college degrees, Ivanka Trump said, which is why the Trump administration was “laser-focused” in making sure that workers of any age or educational background have opportunities to develop.
At this stage, it isn’t clear how many of the pledges have led to jobs, apprenticeships, or reskilling of workers. The White House has said that “strict” standards are set for companies that agree to the pledge, and has turned down companies that don’t fit the requirements.
The companies are required to start immediately after taking the pledge. A senior administration official stressed that they ensure the pledges are new opportunities, as opposed to goals the companies have already set for themselves.
The Pledge to America’s Workers website has a list of 164 companies and associations that have taken the pledge. Some 41 governors have also signed on, five of which are Democrats and 36 are Republican.
Speaking at a Pledge to America’s Workers event on Oct. 31, Ivanka Trump stressed that the initiative does not use any federal dollars, while President Trump touted the use of the private sector to spur reskilling and job creation instead of the government.
“I just feel that they can train people far better than the government can train people, and [the workers] go specifically to that company,” he said, “I don’t think there’s ever been a way that we could go, as a government, and train people like you can train people for your great companies.”
While he has called for a wall on the southwest border to prevent the roughly 1,000 daily illegal immigrants from coming into the country, the president says he wants to increase the number of legal immigrants.
“I have companies coming into the United States; they have to be able to get workers,” he told reporters on Oct. 23. “I want them to come in. I want them to come in through a merit-based system.”