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White House event on workforce highlights private sector investment - but we can’t compete without public investment

  ·   By Katie Spiker,
White House event on workforce highlights private sector investment - but we can’t compete without public investment

Today, the White House hosted an event, “Our pledge to America’s Workers,” highlighting investments from 165 companies to educate and train more than 6 million workers. NSC applauds this focus on workforce development and urges the administration to build on the event’s enthusiasm by proposing federal investments in the workforce and education programs that can make a dent in the U.S. skills gap.

The event builds on an Executive Order the president signed (EO) this past summer establishing the National Council for the American Worker and highlights commitments from companies including IBM, Microsoft, and AT&T.  While there is no way to evaluate whether these pledges are new hires or investments the companies would have made without administration efforts, NSC applauds the administrations focus on the critical need for workforce education and training.

During opening comments, Senior Advisor to the President Ivanka Trump described America’s workforce as our country’s greatest asset. Unfortunately, the Trump Administration has an inconsistent record on education and training issues. While focusing attention on private sector investment, the White House continues to propose drastic disinvestment in critical workforce and education programming.

In a White House Council of Economic Advisors (CEA) paper released in anticipation of the President’s EO on American workers this past summer, the CEA recognized that the U.S. drastically underinvests in workforce development when compared to other peer countries. The private sector has a role to play in addressing the skills gap, but the federal government must invest in workers to truly bring education and training to scale necessary to ensure workers gain skills businesses need to compete in a global economy.

Over the past 40 years, funding for the Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act (WIOA) – the legislation that governs our workforce development system – has declined by 40%. Funding for Career and Technical Education (CTE) has declined by more than 30% and funding for Adult Basic Education (ABE) has declined by 20%. The administration has included even more drastic proposed cuts in their past two presidential budget requests.

Congress has – in bipartisan efforts – rejected these proposed cuts, however, providing $70 million more in CTE investments in the most recent fiscal year and $25 million more for ABE. NSC urges the Trump Administration to reverse course and in their next budget request to propose investments in workers and businesses that can complement the strong commitment the administration calls for from the private sector.

NSC will continue working with our network of partners from across the country and with our national partners through the Campaign to Invest in America’s Workforce to oppose cuts to vital workforce and education programming.

We can’t compete if we cut investment in our workforce, “America’s…greatest asset.”