In an effort to promote workforce development, Ivanka Trump visited the welding program Wednesday at Lewis & Clark Community College in Godfrey.
The visit by Trump, presidential adviser and daughter of the president, was part of an effort to promote the president’s Council for the American Worker. The visit came shortly before fall classes were scheduled to begin at the education center.
Accompanying Trump was U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville. Godfrey is in Davis’ district.
Trump toured the welding facilities at the education center, even took a turn with some of the equipment, and participated in a roundtable discussion with business leaders, students and administrators to promote workforce development programs, such as the one at the community college, the White House said.
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Classes are scheduled to begin on Aug. 20 in the $4.5 million, 16,000-square-foot facility, which the college started building in 2016. It has 30 welding stations, which doubles the community college’s welding capacity to help meet the demand in the industrial workforce.
During the panel discussion, Trump said the federal government can tell you what jobs are available and in what industries, but not necessarily where the jobs are located or the necessary skill sets.
“If you’re a midcareer to late-career worker looking to earn a credential because you’re concerned you’re about to lose your job to automation, you can’t really make an educated decision. If you’re a student, either in college or an alternative pathway, perhaps community college is the right choice for you,” Trump said. “One of the things we’re going to do … is harness data to make smarter and better decisions.”
Trump said education needs to help people get “life-sustaining” jobs. She added it’s not just through the path of a four-year college degree.
“As we talk about workforce development, we need to think about the work of the future ... and how do we define work and how do we define the skills that are essential in a modern economy,” Trump said.
Jerry Knoyle, the manager of the Wood River refinery for Phillips 66, said during the discussion there is a lot of turnover at the refinery because of retirements. Phillips 66 pledged to create 6,000 opportunities for workers and students, according to a White House pool report.
“The jobs are out there, and will be out there, so it’s incumbent upon all of us to support workforce development, (and) partner with the likes of Lewis & Clark Community College,” Knoyle said.
Brad Schaive, former military, and business manager for Laborers Local 447, discussed apprenticeship programs.
“These programs, they drive all of us, and it’s a real path to the American dream,” Schaive said.
As part of the Council for the American Worker program, the Trump administration asked employers to sign a pledge to create new opportunities for American students and workers, including through apprenticeships and work-based learning, continuing education, on-the-job training, and re-skilling.
“We’ve called upon the private sector to partner with us,” Trump said.
Among those in attendance were Madison County Board Chairman Kurt Prenzler and Mike Babcock, who is running for state representative in the 111th House district.
Jim Nelson, the vice president of external affairs for the Illinois Manufacturing Association, was among those in attendance. He said there are more jobs available than candidates to fill the openings.
“In manufacturing and some of the career and technical occupations, we’ve had a serious problem trying to find qualified applicants, of what is now mass manufacturing and transitioning into digital manufacturing,” Nelson said.
Cathy Keller, of Godfrey, a special education resource teacher at Alton High School, also attended.
“I see a lot of students that need an option because a lot of them are not going to be able to attend a two-year or four-year college for general education studies,” Keller said. “There will always be a need for people to work as car mechanics or plumbers. What are you going to do when those all dry up? So you’ve got to have that.”
The average age of welders is 56, meaning there will be an additional need in coming years.
The need for welders is expected to grow by 26 percent by 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The visit to the 13th congressional district comes as Davis is being challenged by Democrat Betsy Dirksen Londrigan, of Springfield. The Illinois 13th congressional district is a target for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
The White House said this was an official trip and wouldn’t comment on the political aspect, but did acknowledge the 13th District is an important district for the administration.
Nearly two weeks ago, Davis also was in attendance for President Donald Trump’s visit to Granite City.
The trip to Lewis & Clark is one of several trips Ivanka Trump is taking across the country over the next several weeks as she highlights the Council for the American Worker.
The White House said there are 6.1 million unfilled jobs in the United States, and training is needed to help people fill future jobs.