GODFREY — First Daughter and White House adviser Ivanka Trump on Wednesday made Lewis and Clark Community College’s brand new Weber Workforce Center a stop on her current barnstorming tour, touting her father’s recent measures to salve a widespread shortage of skilled laborers.
Along with U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, she toured the state-of-the-art facility, set to host its first classes Aug. 20, before participating in a roundtable discussion on workforce development efforts.
During the tour, the pair stopped for a photo-op in the Miller room, where they tried their hand at one of 30 high-proficiency “reality augmented” welding stations.
Ivanka Trump, daughter and adviser to her father, President Donald Trump, made a variety of faces Wednesday as she spoke at a Weber Workforce Center roundtable held at Lewis and Clark Community College in Godfrey. U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, held the roundtable with business leaders and former students of the college. Trump toured the recently completed Weber Workforce Center on the campus before the roundtable discussion.
“How’s my hair?,” Trump asked with a laugh, upon removing her protective helmet.
Later, during the roundtable, Trump recalled her attempt at using the high-tech machinery as an example of quickly changing needs in education.
“Welding is now technical,” she said, later adding that many students growing up may never know they’re good with their hands, because shop classes have nearly become a thing of the past.
“There isn’t one right pathway,” Trump said. “For too long, people have been told there’s one pathway, and that’s a four-year college education. We now know that not to be true. There are many pathways … It’s exciting to be here. It’s exciting to see what you’ve been able to do here at Lewis and Clark Community College, a really first-class program.”
The welding program that will be offered at the Weber Workforce Center will be one of the most advanced in existence.
“The best one in the United States,” Welding Technology Coordinator Travis Jumper said. “But I might be a little bias, because I created the program starting in 2012 from scratch.”
“The ability for kids to be able to come out of school, with very little college, and be able to make all this money and provide for their family in ways they couldn’t have before is just awe-inspiring,” he added.
Davis on Wednesday echoed that there is money out there to be made, with the right skills.
“Even at the high school level, there are really good-paying jobs,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you go to a four-year institution, then come back here to Lewis and Clark, or go into an apprentice program with one of the local labor unions, you’re going to make a good living.”
Davis called the lack of laborers a “crises” and he hopes that events like Wednesday will help create a sense of urgency.
Ivanka Trump is touring the United States to both promote a new workforce-based order signed last week by President Donald Trump, and receive feedback on how to implement it.
The order creates the Council for the American Worker, which will focus on consolidating existing programs to fund new job training initiatives, especially focused on helping individuals without college degrees.
“When we think about the fact that we have this tremendous, roaring economy, yet we do still have people outside of the formal labor force, and we do still have jobs that are vacant,” Ivanka Trump said. “For the first time in history, we actually have more job vacancies than unemployed people. There’s a skills mismatch that exists. And so, what can we do about it? Well, I think we’re not very good, typically, at training, but we can leverage the knowledge of the private sector, and we can say, ‘Be our partner. Help us do better. Help us amplify the issue.’”
Wednesday’s panel was designed to do just that.
It included Boeing Chief Human Resources Heidi Capozzi, Jerry Knoyle, the manager of the Wood River Refinery for Phillips 66; Brad Schaive, business manager of Laborers Local 447; Jane Saale, President and CEO of Cope Plastics; and former Lewis and Clark students who found success in labor fields: Charlie Umphrey, Bobbie McCormick and current student Robyn Scott, along with Lewis and Clark President Dale Chapman.
“I will take these experiences back to Washington, D.C.,” Trump said after the roundtable.
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