Ivanka Trump Talks Investment in U.S. Jobs in CES Keynote, Gets Warm Reception

Ivanka Trump talked about the current and future state of the U.S. workforce at CES — an appearance that was met with a fair amount of enthusiasm among the tech-industry attendees.

In a keynote session Tuesday at CES in Las Vegas, the daughter of and adviser to President Donald Trump said the administration has worked to put in place multiple programs to retrain American workers and is looking for new ways to bring people into the workforce.

She was interviewed by Gary Shapiro, CEO of the Consumer Technology Association, producer of the annual CES consumer-electronics show. Ivanka Trump said one of the White House’s big priorities is to work with private industry to build the country’s workforce.

“If we can’t come together on this, we can’t come together on anything,” Ivanka Trump told Shapiro.

She walked onto the stage at the Venetian’s Palazzo Ballroom to applause and even some cheers and whistles. The room was packed well before the session started. CES appeared to have maintained regular security protocols, including bag checks.

CTA’s decision to give Ivanka Trump a premium speaking slot at the trade show elicited a predictable backlash among critics of President Trump. Some commentators argued that there were numerous other women more qualified to speak at a technology conference. Shapiro defended the move in an earlier interview with the BBC, saying the invite was part of CTA’s stepped-up focus on jobs and noting that Ivanka Trump’s role in her father’s administration includes a focus on skills-training, entrepreneurship and workforce development.

In the keynote, Ivanka Trump did not address her father’s impeachment last month by the House of Representatives. Nor did the current geopolitical crisis with Iran — sparked by the U.S. drone strike ordered by President Trump that killed the Islamic country’s top military commander on Jan. 3 — come up in Ivanka’s talk with Shapiro.

During the session, titled “The Path to the Future of Work,” Ivanka touted record low unemployment in the U.S. across all demographics. Of people who have secured jobs in the past year, 73% came from groups that were marginalized or came from outside the workforce, she claimed.

Ivanka Trump noted that there’s a concern among American employers about lack of skilled workers. There are 500,000 unfilled jobs in the U.S. manufacturing sector and over 7 million unfilled jobs total across the country because companies can’t find workers with the right skills, she said. “It’s forced employers to get creative,” she said, citing examples of companies hiring formerly incarcerated people. Trump said the fastest wage growth among U.S. workers is happening in the bottom quartile of earners: “There really is a blue-collar boom in this country.”

Shapiro asked about immigration and specifically about allowing highly skilled workers to come to the U.S. to fill vacant jobs. Trump agreed that the government’s policies should be revised to allow highly educated non-citizens to live and work in the U.S., but, she added, “It can’t displace the investment that needs to be made in marginalized, unskilled Americans.”

Trump talked about White House jobs initiatives, including the Pledge to America’s Workers, which she said has yielded some 14 million new training and reskilling opportunities, to galvanize private-sector interest in investing in job. That includes a promise from 42 CTA members, who have identified 392,214 new U.S. worker training opportunities over the next five years.

The administration also is working with the Ad Council on an campaign highlighting multiple pathways to high-skilled labor, said Trump, who serves as co-chair of the National Council for the American Worker with U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. Companies need to “think about hiring in a new way,” said Trump. “The most important social impact you should be opining on is about your own family — your own workforce.”

On the subject of parental leave, Shapiro asked Trump about the recently signed law that grants federal workers 12 weeks of paid parental leave. “We cannot ask all of you to offer this benefit to your workforces unless we are able to do it ourselves,” she said.

As for the effect on jobs of technology innovation, she said, “I believe innovation is a net job-producer… Innovation will allow for more inclusive growth,” citing as an example that disabled people are able to use robotics to perform job functions they otherwise couldn’t.

In the BBC interview, Shapiro insisted the talk with Ivanka Trump was not intended to be “political event.” But the trade org likely brought her to the CES stage to win brownie points with the administration as part of its lobbying efforts to head off a major trade war with China. The CTA has called President Trump’s high tariffs on Chinese imports a “tax” on American consumers.

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