Ivanka Trump Says New Skills Will Be Required to Succeed in Digital Economy

Paid-family-leave advocate says legislation won’t pass this year

Roy Maurer By Roy Maurer August 2, 2018
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​Ivanka Trump, White House advisor and daughter to the president, discussed paid family leave, workforce development and the future of work during an event held by media site Axios in Washington, D.C.

In an onstage interview with Axios Executive Editor Mike Allen, Trump said that because of the strong economy, it's not only an exciting time for the federal government and the private sector to tackle workforce challenges, but it's also a great time to be a job seeker.

"There's unprecedented opportunity for people to not only enter the workforce and have more choices, but for them to seek new opportunities within existing careers or change their careers," she said. "Whether you're a young student or worker embarking on a career or, increasingly, whether you're a mid- to late-career worker who's looking to learn a new trade and enter a new line of work, this is an optimistic time."

In June, over 600,000 workers entered—and many re-entered—the labor force.

Since becoming an advisor to the president, Trump has been a vocal advocate for workforce issues such as jobs training, work-based learning and paid family leave.

[SHRM members-only online discussion platform: SHRM Connect]

Vocational Education

Trump said she's been traveling around the country, talking about preparing for the future of work and hearing from stakeholders that the country's career and technical education law needed to be modernized.

The Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act had not been reauthorized since 2006. The law provides federal funding for state and local career and technical education programs, while modifying how such funds are used to better target critical skills gaps.

"It needed to be more responsive to the needs of local communities," Trump said. "But the legislation just sat there for years despite near-universal consensus that it was great. This was Washington at its worst. It just needed a champion."

She took up that mantle from the White House, and President Donald Trump signed legislation July 31 to overhaul the law and fund workforce training education with over $1 billion through fiscal year 2024.

"The focus on vocational education is important," she said. "For too long, we've talked about college. College is amazing, a wonderful path for many people, but it isn't the right path for everyone and shouldn't be perceived as the only path for everyone."

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) encourages employers to review and evaluate their qualification and hiring preferences and consider more skill certifications, occupational licenses and competency-based hiring.

Reskilling the Workforce

Trump celebrated another recent win July 9 with the launch of the administration's Pledge to America's Workers, a two-pronged initiative she led.

First, the president signed an executive order creating "a national council to think holistically about the education and skills development of U.S. workers from birth to retirement," she said. "Right now, we have so many different education and training programs across 14 different agencies. There's no real accountability for these programs. The council will offer recommendations to consolidate and concentrate resources in the programs that are working and to leverage technology that allows people to make smarter decisions about their education and skills development."

SHRM supports partnerships between employers and education and training providers that are demand-driven and focused on the workforce needs of employers.

Executives from companies such as FedEx and Walmart and organizations including SHRM committed to further develop employee skills and invest in 3.8 million training opportunities for U.S. workers.

"We called on the private sector to commit to apprenticeships, on-the-job training programs and reskilling of existing workers," Trump said. "For example, taking a mid- to late-career worker who is at risk of losing their job to automation and committing to retrain them for vacancies within their own company."

Paid Family Leave

Trump said she's spent the last year convincing Republicans that paid family leave is not another entitlement program or a mandated burden on business. "We talked about why it is good policy," she said. "It creates attachment to the workforce. We're incentivized to drive up the labor force participation rate in this country. And it's very important that once somebody has a job, and then have a life event like having a child and wants to maintain their job, that they are able to do so. We also want to support family cohesion and connectivity and bonding, especially when people are at their most vulnerable."

Several members of Congress have introduced paid-leave legislation, including H.R. 4219, which SHRM supports and helped develop. The proposal, introduced by Rep. Mimi Walters, R-Calif., allows employers to voluntarily offer their workers a flexible work-arrangement plan that includes a federal standard of paid time off and options for flexible work arrangements. The plan, covered by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, would pre-empt state and local paid leave and workflex laws.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., introduced a plan today that would allow people to use Social Security benefits for parental leave.

Getting paid-family-leave laws passed will require bipartisan compromise, Trump said. "It's been 25 years since the passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act, and we're still at zero weeks of paid leave—the only country in the developed world where that is true."

She added that passing paid family leave won't happen in this Congress, but she's "cautiously optimistic that it can happen next year."

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