White House to unveil workforce development program led by Ivanka Trump

Last Updated Jun 12, 2017 2:20 PM EDT

Although last week's "infrastructure week" was overshadowed by former FBI Director James Comey's Capitol Hill testimony and the appointment of a new FBI director, the White House is pushing ahead with its strategy of weeks devoted to specific policy themes.

In that vein, the White House is dubbing next week "workforce development week." The administration will announce new administrative actions focused on streamlining current federal job training programs and expanding apprenticeship programs. Ivanka Trump, assistant to the president and the president's daughter, will lead next week's events, including what a senior White House official called a "major policy speech" by President Trump.

The official said the administration will seek to re-organize current workforce development programs and make existing spending more efficient, rather than make a large increase to federal funding for these programs. There are currently 43 job training programs across 13 different government agencies, totaling $16.7 billion a year in government funding. The official said the administration believes some of those programs are ineffective and unaccountable. 

The administration will also announce steps to make it easier for businesses and trade groups to create and scale new apprenticeship programs.

"The reality is that there are still Americans seeking employment despite low unemployment rates, and companies are struggling to fill vacancies for positions that require varied levels of skills and training," Ivanka Trump said in a briefing with reporters. "So the Trump administration is committed to working very closely to close the skills gap."

Trump pointed to meetings that both she and the president had on the campaign trail as the impetus for this White House initiative. She recalled meeting with recent college graduates struggling to find work, as well as with business leaders struggling to find workers with adequate skills. She also said her recent trip to the W20 summit in Berlin and a tour of the Siemens Technik Akademie informed the administration's thinking on expanding apprenticeship programs.  

Trump will join the president and Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta on Tuesday to travel to Waukesha County Technical College in Wisconsin. They will be joined by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker as the group tours several of the school's training classrooms and participates in a roundtable discussion with local business owners.

Trump said in her view, the purpose of the visit to Wisconsin is to highlight the school as an example of one that is "evolving curriculum to meet the modern economy." She said this type of approach is something the administration would like to see more of and is looking to cultivate. 

On Wednesday, she will lead a CEO roundtable focused on workforce development and apprenticeship programs at the White House with about 15 CEOs. A senior White House official said during the roundtable, the executives will discuss programs like Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH), a six-year public school technical education model developed in partnership with IBM.

In 2013, President Obama visited the P-TECH school in Brooklyn, New York, and mentioned P-TECH in his State of the Union address.

"We need to give every American student opportunities like this," Mr. Obama said of P-TECH.

When asked if this meant the Trump administration shared common ground with the Obama administration on the issue of technical education and apprenticeship programs, a senior White House official said the administration believes the effort should attract bipartisan support.

Later Wednesday, Ivanka Trump will join Mr. Trump at the Department of Labor for his major policy speech. In addition to laying out the week's administrative actions, the president is expected to discuss working with Congress to address college affordability

Reed Cordish, assistant to the president for intergovernmental and technology initiatives, called the planned administrative actions "highly substantive."

The final workforce development event of the week will take place on Thursday, when eight governors with workforce development initiatives in their states will be at the White House for a roundtable discussion led by Ivanka Trump, the president, Vice President Mike Pence and Acosta, the labor secretary.

A senior White House official said Mr. Trump's former television show "The Apprentice" will not be incorporated into the week at all, other than potentially "as a passing joke."