Statement from Rachel Unruh on President Trump’s State of the Union Address

By Ayobami Olugbemiga, February 05, 2020

Washington, D.C. — The following is a statement from Rachel Unruh, chief of external affairs at National Skills Coalition and chief strategist for the organization’s Voices for Skills campaign, in response to President Trump’s State of the Union address:

Contrary to the President’s claim that the economy is the ‘strongest it’s ever been,’ the reality is that the state of our country’s workforce development is far from strong. America is ranked second to last in public investment in workforce development among OECD countries. The president’s previous budgets have made matters worse by calling for drastic cuts to the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), and other workforce, education, and human services programs. These programs are already underfunded after more than a decade of cuts – despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of the public want to see more investment in skills training.

We appreciate the President’s acknowledgment for the need to invest in infrastructure as well as vocational and technical education in high schools. But we can’t stop at high school. Given that the majority of jobs require some sort of postsecondary education or training, we must also invest in postsecondary career pathways for adult workers. And, taking full advantage of the potential job creation of new infrastructure investment also requires investing in our human capital to create a diverse pipeline of workers who are trained with the skills necessary to access and succeed in new infrastructure jobs.

More than two-thirds of jobs are expected to change dramatically due to automation. That means our country needs bold, meaningful, and large-scale public investment in job training to expand economic opportunities for workers while also boosting business capacity.

We hope the President’s upcoming budget reflects the priority that Governor Whitmer laid out in her response – to ensure everyone has ‘a path to a good life,’ including through apprenticeship and other skilled pathways. But this requires investment. The Governor’s Michigan Reconnect effort to ensure every adult can access an industry certification or associate’s degree is a model for the nation.