President Trump signed an executive order at the White House on Thursday aimed at increasing training opportunities for American workers to help close the so-called skills gap.
“We’re asking businesses and organizations across the country to sign our new pledge to America’s workers,” Trump said. “Today, 23 companies and associations are pledging to expand apprenticeships … for on-the-job training and vocational education.”
The president added that the opportunities will be for Americans of all ages, from college students looking to land their first job to older workers looking to learn skills for a new career.
More than 15 companies signed on to the effort, including IBM, Home Depot, Lockheed Martin, FedEx Corp, General Motors and Walmart. FedEx CEO Fred Smith said his company would re-train 500,000 workers, while IBM's Jen Crozier committed to creating 100,000 new opportunities.
As part of the order, top administration officials will form a National Council for the American Worker, which will focus on industries considered to have high potential for workers. Executives and experts from the private sector, educational institutions, and other outside organizations will also be enlisted to form a separate advisory board. Trump said the members of that board will be announced in the coming weeks.
The White House said the initiative could lead to 500,000 new job opportunities in the U.S. labor force. Trump said on Thursday that the U.S. economy has created 3.7 million jobs since the election.
The skills gap has been a prevalent problem for companies, which have a number of job openings. Lockheed Martin CEO Marilyn Hewson said in an article on Fox News Thursday that a lack of qualified workers in her industry has “a clear, real-world impact.”
Hewson pledged to create at least 8,000 new opportunities for workers over the next five years.