Last week, President Trump signed an Executive Order Establishing the President’s National Council for the American Worker (EO). The EO establishes a National Council for the American Worker (Council), a cabinet level advisory panel to be co-lead by the Secretaries of Commerce, Labor, and the Advisor to the President leading the Domestic Policy Counsel. The EO also establishes the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board (Advisory Board), a task force of twenty-five members from outside of the federal government including Governors, representatives from educational institutions, businesses and business associations. The Advisory Board is tasked with advising the Council on workforce policy, with both entities focused on expanding partnerships between workforce stakeholders and improving data transparency around current and future job openings and job training opportunities.
Other members of the Council include the Secretaries of Education, Treasury and Veterans Affairs, Directors of the Office of Management and Budget and the Administrator of the Small Business Administration. The members are tasked with developing strategy for engaging workforce stakeholders to “empower workers,” including businesses, education providers, labor, community organizations and state and local governments. In the next six months, the President directs the Council to work with the Advisory Board to:
- Develop a national campaign on the need for skilled workers, role of STEM education in meeting this need, career opportunities in a variety of middle-skill jobs, and the role of industry in investing in this skill development;
- Build on the President’s 2017 EO on Expanding Apprenticeships in America to increase worker access to industry recognized credentials earned through work-based learning and expanded use of online learning. The EO also calls for a network of partnerships between workforce and education agencies, labor-management partnerships, community organizations and businesses, consistent with the bipartisan PARTNERS Act, to support this expanded use of work-based learning.
- Increase access to data on current and future job openings and job training opportunities.
- Recommend mechanisms to enable the public sector to support private industry efforts to retrain workers.
- Evaluate effectiveness – and funding – of federal investments in workforce and education.
National Skills Coalition has long supported several of the goals of President Trump's executive order: increasing apprenticeships, data transparency that helps students and businesses get the skills they need to succeed, and business efforts to upskill their workforces. And many components of the EO are consistent with previous NSC recommendations, including establishment of both an interagency task force focused on workforce and skills issues and the administration’s actions to convene a set of experts on skills issues. The success of both groups, however, depends on involvement and engagement with a diverse set of workforce experts with experience in running, organizing, participating in and working with the workforce and education systems.
At a White House event connected to the President signing the EO, more than 15 our nation’s largest companies pledged their own investments in the skills of current and future employees, including IBM, Microsoft, Walmart Inc., FedEx, AT&T and Lockheed Martin. These private companies’ investments in upskilling incumbent workers and training a pipeline of new workers will make a positive impact on skill training opportunities. Yet, to put a dent in our nation’s skills gap, these businesses will need an equally aggressive investment partner in our federal government.
Instead of making investments to support this strategy, the administration has called for massive disinvestment in programs that would help close the skills gap in their last two budgets and recently proposed a consolidation of the Departments of Labor and Education. The administration has also included calls to eliminate workforce programs in several recent actions, including in this EO.
NSC, with our partners in the Campaign to Invest in America’s Workforce, has repeatedly opposed efforts from the administration to cut investments in vital workforce and education programs. Congress also continues to reject calls for massive disinvestment. We strongly encourage the administration to adjust their reflexive proposals for cuts to vital investments and to instead focus on how federal funding can help support their stated goals of meeting business skill demand and worker training needs.