With millions of Americans put out of work by the worsening coronavirus pandemic, Ivanka Trump unveiled a new jobs initiative Tuesday titled “Find Something New,” which encourages the country’s laid-off workers to consider alternative career paths.
“There has never been a more critical time for Americans of all ages and backgrounds to be aware of the multiple pathways to career success and gain the vocational training and skills they need to fill jobs in a changing economy,” Trump, who is a senior adviser in her father’s White House, said during a virtual roundtable that included IBM executive chairman Ginni Rometty and Apple CEO Tim Cook.
Acknowledging that “jobs are changing and the pandemic has accelerated the pace,” the program encourages workers to consider a range of careers, including those that don’t require a college degree.
The initiative’s emphasis on helping workers adapt to the changing workplace is certainly nothing new, although it seems to represent a shift by the Trump administration, which has put a heavy emphasis on preserving legacy industries and blue-collar jobs. During the 2016 presidential election, then-candidate Donald Trump hammered away at rival Hillary Clinton over her suggestion that a shift to renewable energy would inevitably put the coal industry out of business.
“I’m the only candidate which has a policy about how to bring economic opportunity using clean renewable energy as the key into coal country,” Clinton said while campaigning. “Because we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.”
In response, Trump embraced the dying industry at every rally and hawked merchandise branded with the slogan “Trump digs coal.”
Since taking office, however, he has not delivered on his promise to save the coal industry. Just as Clinton predicted, the nation has continued to transition to natural gas and renewable sources of energy; more than 50 coal companies have gone out of business since 2016. In 2014, coal supplied 38.6 percent of the nation’s electricity, NS Energy reported. In 2020, it is expected to fall to just 19 percent.
Those statistics led Joe Biden, Trump’s opponent in this year’s general election, to revive Clinton’s call to retrain coal workers.
“Anybody who can go down 300 to 3,000 feet in a mine sure as hell can learn how to program as well,” Biden said at a December campaign event in New Hampshire. “But we don’t think of it that way. Anybody who can throw coal into a furnace can learn how to program, for God’s sake.”
Before the pandemic, the Trump campaign seemed prepared to run on its record in lowering unemployment and to portray the president as the savior of the manufacturing sector. While Trump did create more manufacturing jobs in the first 33 months of his presidency than former President Barack Obama did during the last 33 of his second term, overall the manufacturing sector in the U.S. continues to shrink.
But as COVID-19 began sweeping over the country, the manufacturing sector, which employs nearly 13 million workers and was struggling to find skilled labor, was hit hard because its jobs aren’t the kind one can do from home.
Amid this jarring new reality, a familiar dynamic is unfolding in the presidential race. On Tuesday, Biden’s campaign announced the candidate’s plan to transform the nation’s energy industry away from carbon sources to renewables, including an ambitious 15-year goal of 100 percent clean electricity.
Biden’s proposal is also a jobs plan meant to help stem the losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic, in large part by creating 1 million manufacturing jobs to upgrade 4 million buildings and weatherize 2 million homes across the country.
A day earlier, Trump downplayed recent polls that show him trailing Biden in Texas by noting that he is on the side of the fossil fuel industry.
“I created it,” Trump said of the oil industry. “We became No. 1. We have millions of jobs. And we saved it, so Texas is not going to have to let go of millions and millions of people.”
Trump is also readying an infrastructure plan intended to revive an economy now in recession thanks to COVID-19, which has so far killed at least 136,000 people and infected more than 3.3 million in the U.S.
For now, there is the “Find Something New” initiative, whose website features stories of workers who found new careers in tech, health care, aviation services and retail — inspiring to some, and tone deaf to others, such as progressive commentator Krystal Ball.
I suggest that you visit https://t.co/dRZMdZyON4.
This initiative is about challenging the idea the traditional 2 and 4 yr college is the only option to acquire the skills needed to secure a job.
This work has never been more urgent. https://t.co/S74NXLMzRg
— Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump) July 14, 2020
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