BAD NEUENAHR, Germany – Speaking at the G-20 Labor and Employment Ministers' Meeting today, U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta emphasized his support for fostering the growth of apprenticeships, a major priority for President Trump and the Department of Labor. The secretary's remarks reinforce the White House Office of American Innovation's commitment to increasing the number of quality apprenticeships, including expansion into high-growth, emerging sectors where apprenticeships have historically been rare.
Remarks as prepared for delivery follow:
"When I entered government service about 15 years ago, I kept up with friends and business contacts using a Rolodex, browsed the internet on my computer and flagged down a taxi or drove a car when I needed to go somewhere.
"Now, everyone in this room can access the internet on their phones. We stay connected using an ever-increasing number of social media outlets. We can summon a car with the press of a button.
"And as we sit here, inventors and companies around the world are working to produce the first commercially available driverless cars, which could hit the road in the next few years.
"We are living in an ‘Age of Accelerations,' as some commentators have said. Technological breakthroughs are improving the way we live and creating new jobs with new skill needs.
"In the United States, we have about six million vacant jobs and seven million unemployed workers. In the last several months, CEO after CEO has told me that they are eager to fill their vacancies, but they cannot find workers with the right skills. Perhaps our most critical challenge today is giving our workers the skills they need to participate in an ever-changing, fast-moving economy.
"The Age of Accelerations calls for demand-driven education that gives men and women the technical skills they need now – and also prepares them to be agile, responsive life-long learners who can acquire new skills in our ever-changing workplace.
"Apprenticeships are one key to meeting this challenge. Apprenticeships are a win-win for workers and businesses. They give workers the skills they need today, and – if structured correctly – prepare workers to be lifelong learners ready and able to acquire new skills as the economy continues to change. And apprenticeships give businesses the skilled workers they so desperately need.
"Educational institutions are critical partners in fostering apprenticeships. They have the experience required to teach students both practical skills and habits of learning needed to succeed in the Age of Accelerations. Furthermore, apprenticeship programs often help students pay for their education, reducing student debt.
"Governments should focus on bringing businesses and educational institutions together to benefit students, workers, and the economy. And they should help ensure that both younger workers entering the workforce and older workers seeking new skills have access to these programs.
"In the United States, apprenticeships are a major priority for President Trump and the Department of Labor. We have made a strong commitment to increasing the number of quality apprenticeships, including expansion into high-growth, emerging sectors where apprenticeships have historically been rare.
"We in the United States are eager to work with each of you to foster the global growth of apprenticeships. Earlier this year, President Trump, Chancellor Merkel, and representatives of the American and German business communities held a roundtable to highlight their importance to the 21st century global economy in both nations.
"Let me also recognize the G-20 Initiative to Support Quality Apprenticeships, which the United States supported last year with China in Beijing.
"A G-20 apprenticeship event was held last month in South Africa and another one is scheduled for Shanghai in June.
"We are off to a strong start.
"We are also eager to learn from the apprenticeship successes that many of our neighbors around the world have enjoyed. We have borrowed two promising ideas from our friends in the U.K.
"One is National Apprenticeship Week, in which businesses showcase the benefits to young people and their parents. Another is the United Kingdom's successful Trailblazers program, on which we have modeled our Apprenticeship LEADERS program.
"In March, the governors of the states of Kentucky, Oklahoma, and South Dakota visited Germany and Switzerland to examine those countries' models and duplicate their success.
"And in North Carolina, Apprenticeship 2000 – an employer-led consortium of German, Swiss, Swedish and American firms – is supporting dual-style apprenticeship and education programs.
"I look forward to working with each of you to bring together businesses, educational institutions and workers to give both young people and older workers the skills they need for a lifetime of success in our accelerating economy."