Washington’s lack of discussion about the coming onslaught of automation has been disturbing, but a recent flicker of awareness has been hopeful. Last week saw the rollout of a new initiative from the White House to prepare for the technological workplace of the future, emphasizing skills training and education for workers at all stages in their their career. The project brings together workers with companies that have pledged to invest in retraining, so there is no tax money involved and the instruction promises to be hands-on appropriate.
The Drudge Report recently spotlighted the tech training effort using a robot graphic with Ivanka, who has been a spokesmodel for the program:
In the interview following, Neil Cavuto interrupted the important message of job training for the future workplace with peripheral issues, but the important points were made about how the program will work.
NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Right now is the head of the Small Business Administration, Linda McMahon. Very good to have you. Thank you for coming.
I know the president’s been pushing, and today led this effort to try to improve job training on the part of big Fortune 500 companies that can help in that regard.
What I didn’t understand, Linda, maybe you can help me, is there a sense that the government’s going to kick in some dough for this, or are these companies like FedEx and GM and Microsoft and Wal-Mart, are they ponying up the money?
LINDA MCMAHON, ADMINISTRATOR, SMALL BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION: This is — this is not a government contribution program at this point.
This really public-private partnerships, a lot between our educational institutions and our companies. And the companies may be training a lot themselves, but hopefully they’re also going to be working with our vocational schools, our community colleges to say, what is it they need?
We have got a wonderful economy going. We have got about 6.7 million jobs that are vacant that we don’t have the people to fill those jobs. And I hear it from small businesses, as well as large businesses.
So we’re looking to change the educational paradigm and emphasis in the country, so that industry will go into those vocational and community college and say, look, this is what I need. I’m going to bring the equipment in here, so your classes, you can train the students for what I need. I’ll provide the equipment.
Part of the time, the students will be in here. Part of the time, they will be in my factory on my floor. And I’ll pay them while they’re there. There are companies that are doing that now.
I was at a community college this week in Charleston, Virginia, and that is exactly what a big manufacturing town has done. And those internships and apprenticeships can — they can earn as much as $40,000 over the time that they’re training.
CAVUTO: But a trade war potentially could shatter that, right?
Do some of your members, when you talk to them and go out there — and I know you travel a good deal — do they worry about that, that this — the president, they might trust to do the right thing, but something might blow up on their face?
MCMAHON: I’m not hearing that big concern.
But we’re — the number one concern that I hear from small businesses as I’m traveling around the country — and I have been, you know, to 40 states now and visited with 51 district offices of SBA.
And those businesses that I talk to, their number one concern right now is the skilled work force. And I was asked recently, well, what does the skilled work force mean? I said training workers for whatever skills are necessary, whether it’s artificial intelligence, robotics, carpenters, plumbers, welders, electricians, whatever skills are needed.
That’s what we need to focus on and train them. The jobs are there. They’re great. From a small business perspective, if you get that training, you can start your own business.
CAVUTO: All right, well, a lot of those businesses, I’m sure, worry about interest rates. do you think when the president said he had to say about the Federal Reserve, would your members welcome that, if it was a way of telling the Federal Reserve cool it?
MCMAHON: Neil, I came on today to talk about this wonderful pledge that 23 countries — not countries — 23 businesses have signed to train and provide new opportunities for almost four million workers.
And we had 23 businesses here in the East Room of the White House. They all signed this pledge. . .