Briefing on Workforce Development

2 months ago
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MS.
DITTO: Good afternoon, everyone.
Today, Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta and
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos gave the
President an update on the Trump administration's
workforce development policies and apprenticeship
initiative.
The secretaries will each give remarks about
their discussion with the President and will
then take a few questions.
Please keep your questions related to today's
discussion on workforce development and apprenticeships.
With that, I'll turn it over to Secretary
Acosta.
SECRETARY ACOSTA: Thank you, and good afternoon.
So let me just say, it's a pleasure to be
here to update President Trump on the optimistic
outlook of the American workforce.
Today, we specifically discussed our process
implementing the executive order on apprenticeships.
The President's top priority in labor is jobs,
more jobs, and even more jobs.
And the Department of Labor is implementing
the President's vision to ensure that Americans
have the skills that they need to fill good,
safe jobs.
There are 6.2 million job openings here nationwide.
This is the highest number on record, yet
7 million Americans are looking for jobs.
Americans want to work.
American companies want to hire.
We need to close the skills gap between those
skills that are demanded by the workforce
and those skills that are offered by the American
people.
This is why the President signed this executive
order to expand apprenticeships to all sectors
of our economy.
The concept of demand-driven education has
been enthusiastically received by private
industry, educational institutions, and state
and local officials across the country.
The CEOs of more than 100 major companies
signed a joint letter in support of this executive
order.
And I should say, I've spoken with dozens
of CEOs, college and university presidents,
union leaders, and industry groups.
To a person, they are excited about apprenticeships.
They're excited about this work, and are already
starting to develop apprenticeship programs.
We're currently evaluating hundreds of submissions
that we have received in response to a call
for nominations on the Apprenticeship Expansion
Task Force.
We expect the work of this task force to begin
in September.
They'll advise the administration on effective
apprenticeship strategies for all industries.
The Department of Labor is partnering with
industry groups, companies, nonprofit organizations,
unions, joint labor management organizations,
and so many others to help design these apprenticeship
programs.
Industry-recognized apprenticeships will teach
workers skills that are transferable and portable
within industries, resulting in even more
job opportunities.
Finally, I want to thank the President for
his leadership on this effort, and I also
want to thank Ivanka Trump and the Office
of American Innovation for their tireless
effort on this initiative.
Workforce education begins at our educational
institutions.
Students attend schools to become lifelong
learners, but they also attend school to acquire
the skills that lead to good, safe jobs with
family-sustaining wages.
Workforce education is a joint effort between
the Department of Labor and the Department
of Education.
And so I want to thank Secretary DeVos for
her partnership and her efforts.
We're working hand-in-hand in this initiative,
and she and I have attended so many events
where she has spoken and I've spoken, because
this really is an effort between the Department
of Labor and the Department of Education.
And so she's going to say a few words today.
SECRETARY DEVOS: Thank you, Secretary Acosta.
Good afternoon, everyone.
I'd just like to say that we had a really
productive discussion with the President this
afternoon.
This is a subject about which he is highly
interested and about which many, many Americans
care.
Following the executive order in June, it
was very clear the President really wants
to see action in this area.
And Secretary Acosta has just framed up some
of the things that are underway right now.
But I think it's important to remember that
economics and our economies have changed dramatically
in the last 50 years.
Education needs to keep up.
We need to update not only what we are teaching
but also how we are teaching.
We need to embrace innovation in our approaches
to education.
Schools are going to be beginning here very
soon, and some actually have already, but
the reality is that there are fewer traditional
college students -- four-year college students.
Many adults are going back to school to learn
skills; many going back to change professions.
I've met a number of these in my visits to
schools in recent months.
I think about the dance major who has now
become a welder and loves her profession.
I think about the court clerk who was bored
with a desk job and went back and studied
in the area of mechatronics and is now happily
employed in advanced manufacturing in the
aerospace industry.
As Secretary Acosta mentioned, there are more
than 6 million jobs that are going unfilled
currently.
It's a mismatch on both skills, as well as
geography.
We really need to equip students with what
they need to pursue these 21st century opportunities.
And this is not limited to higher education,
either.
More can be done at the K-12 level.
Students need to be able to understand and
know the multiple pathways they have to a
productive adult life, starting as early as
middle school.
And they need to have access to a variety
of ways to learn these interesting subjects.
So I'll conclude with just saying that the
administration's work in this area is going
to help students first and foremost, but it's
going to help communities, it's going to help
our economy, and it ultimately will help our
country.
With that, I think we are ready to take a
couple of questions.
SECRETARY ACOSTA: Yes.
Q At some point, these priorities may need
legislative approval, and I'm wondering if
President Trump's comments about Senate Majority
Leader Mitch McConnell will make that easier
or more difficult in the future.
SECRETARY ACOSTA: Well, I'll say that this
is an area that I think has broad-based support.
If you look at -- there's so many ideas on
the Hill around apprenticeship efforts.
And it's an area that I think -- all legislators
recognize that the American workforce deserves
the best training and the best education available.
We have 6.2 million open jobs.
We have 7 million individuals who want to
work.
And I think there's broad recognition that
we need to provide those individuals that
want to work with access to the skills that
is demanded by the modern workforce.
SECRETARY DEVOS: And I would just add to that
that I'm sure you're aware that the Perkins
reauthorization passed the House with an overwhelming
majority.
In fact, it was as close to unanimous as you
could come.
And so I agree with Secretary Acosta that
there's broad support for opportunities -- to
expand opportunities for access to higher
education and learning opportunities.
Q Thank you.
Part of the President's initial executive
order called for a review of how federal agencies
could improve their training for apprenticeship
programs.
Can you talk a little about what a key finding
or a few of the key findings were?
And can you talk a little bit about -- I mean,
obviously there's a lot of bipartisan support
for apprenticeship programs.
Are you feeling that play out?
Are you reaching out to or have you had a
number of Democratic lawmakers reach out to
you to join with you in this effort?
SECRETARY ACOSTA: Well, you're correct, there's
support across the nation for apprenticeship
programs.
I have traveled to so many cities in the last
month, and, to a person, I have heard support,
I've heard excitement about apprenticeship
programs.
As you mentioned, the executive order asked
that each agency review its own programs to
see how they can better support apprenticeship
programs.
And so, for example, the Department of Defense
is going to be looking to see how they can
better pipeline individuals that are leaving
military service into apprenticeship programs.
As we’re working with several agencies and
that review is underway.
In the front.
Q We've heard a lot today about the commitment
to apprenticeship programs, but the President's
budget actually calls for some pretty deep
cuts to funding for states that would go for
technical training, career training -- things
like that.
How do you square those two things up?
SECRETARY ACOSTA: Actually, the President's
budget maintains equal funding for apprenticeship
programs and does not reduce it.
But let me say, one of the points that I worry
about sometimes in Washington is that we judge
the success of a program by how much it spends.
And we should judge the success of the program
by how effective it is.
And so if you look at apprenticeships, for
example, in the building trades -- the building
trades spend almost a billion a year of private
sector money on apprenticeship programs.
That's a success.
The fact that they spend a billion a year
of private sector money should be a complement
and not a problem.
And so, part of these apprenticeship programs
--- and the key here -- is that we expect
industry to be in charge, that industry should
take the lead and should be paying for much
of this training.
And so, first, let me again reiterate, the
President's budget does not reduce the spending
on apprenticeship programs; it maintains level
funding.
But secondly, let's not judge a program by
how much it spends, but by how effective it
is.
Q And I was talking about funding in the education
budget specifically.
SECRETARY DEVOS: And actually, the CTE funding
is relatively level compared to the year before,
but the reality is that we're looking at ways
that -- we're looking at programs that have
been duplicative between agencies, and we
are really searching for the way forward to
support those that are effective and to do
away with the things that are ineffective.
And Secretary Acosta is absolutely right,
the private sector has really stepped up in
a major way and we need to partner with them
in a much more intentional way to ensure that
there are more and more opportunities that
are meeting the needs of the jobs that exist.
Q The President has touted many times since
he's taken office how great the jobs numbers
are, his successes in creating jobs.
Before he took office -- many, many times
-- he called the unemployment numbers fiction
and said those numbers were fake.
How do you square those two things?
What is his position now?
Does he have confidence in the unemployment
numbers, or has he changed his position to
suit his politics?
SECRETARY ACOSTA: Well, as you pointed out,
there is a renewed spirit of optimism that
has led to incredibly strong economic growth.
Just since January, unemployment has fallen
0.5 percent to its lowest level in 16 years.
U6 -- you referenced different measures -- U6,
which is the broadest measure of unemployment,
has fallen even further.
It's fallen 0.8 percent.
The stock market has hit high after high after
high.
Inflation figures just came out today, and
they remain rather low -- 1.7 percent as of
today, as opposed to 1.6 percent last month.
And so you have confidence and optimism that
is, again, among job creators, reaching levels
that we haven't seen in many, many years.
And I guess I should just say, if you look
at the jobs numbers just since January, more
than 1,070,000 jobs have been created.
Now, as you point out, there are several measures
of unemployment.
Actually, the Bureau of Labor Statistics puts
out at least six measures of unemployment
-- U1 through U6 -- each focused on a different
measure and each getting progressively broader.
I would simply reiterate that the standard
measure that we usually talk about that's
at 4.3 percent has fallen 0.5.
But the broader measure, which you reference,
which the President has referenced at times,
has fallen even further by 0.8 percent, which,
in six months, is rather a stunning decrease.
Q I'm sorry, just to be clear, does the President
have confidence in the numbers that come out
of the Department of Labor?
And why did he previously call them fake?
SECRETARY ACOSTA: And so I'm here to tell
you what the numbers that come out of the
Department of Labor are.
I would leave it to him to comment further.
But let me say this: I think the President
has talked about the job figures, and he has
pointed out how incredibly strong they are.
We have a renewed spirit of optimism that
has led to economic growth, and let's just
look at the numbers that have come out of
Bureau of Labor Statistics month after month
after month.
Unemployment is down 0.5 percent, the U3 number
to 4.3.
It's a 16-year low.
The U6 number is down 0.8 percent.
And so this data -- and it is data -- shows
incredible economic growth and we should focus
on the growth that we see in this economy.
SECRETARY DEVOS: Let me just add to what Secretary
Acosta said in that we can acknowledge, at
the same time, that there are too many Americans
that have decided to leave the labor market
and are not looking for a job, and we want
to ensure opportunities for them to realize
everything that they can actually be and have
paths and avenues to good work, and to have
opportunities that have heretofore not been
afforded them.
A lot of the messaging that's been sent the
last couple of decades has been that, if you
do not attend a 4-year college or university,
you are less-than.
And this is a very different approach that
we have in this administration -- to reach
out and to say: All of you are needed and
all of you are important parts of our society
and parts of our country.
And this apprenticeship program, this apprenticeship
focus, and the focus on multiple pathways
to higher education is a really, really important
effort to better engage a greater swath of
our population.
Q You're both here at a time when the President
is also dealing with issues related to foreign
policy.
That came up in the meeting that you had today.
As two members of his Cabinet, did he share
with you any of the larger concerns that he's
dealing with now, or read you in at all on
the U.S. position related to what's happening
with North Korea right now?
SECRETARY ACOSTA: So, I would say from my
perspective, the President was focused on
the American workforce, on how to create jobs.
And he wants to see, as I said earlier, jobs,
more jobs, and even more jobs.
This is something he cares very passionate
about.
He comes from the construction industry and
is very familiar with the success of the building
trades in creating apprenticeships, and he
wants to see this expanded across all industries.
SECRETARY DEVOS: Yeah, he's focused on opportunities
-- opportunities for all Americans.
Q So as members of the Cabinet, though, he
doesn't discuss these larger issues that I
realize are not your direct area of responsibility?
But as members of the team --
SECRETARY DEVOS: Not in the context of our
meeting today.
SECRETARY ACOSTA: Thank you very much.
Q Thanks for coming.
SECRETARY DEVOS: Thank you.