CXO

How new Trump executive order could fight automation impact, bridge tech skills gap

The order aims to expand apprenticeships and training, as well as award companies that invest in workforce education.

On Thursday, US President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order establishing a council and advisory board to improve job training and reskilling for students and workers, to fill tech talent gaps and address the impact of automation on the workforce.

During a White House ceremony announcing the initiative, some 23 companies and associations signed a pledge to hire or train more than 3.8 million US students and workers over the next five years. Companies included Microsoft, FedEx, General Motors, Lockheed Martin, and Walmart, the last of which alone committed to hiring one million people, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

The companies said they would create more apprenticeships and increase on-the-job training to provide people with more opportunities to develop the skills needed to gain steady jobs, the Journal reported.

SEE: IT jobs 2018: Hiring priorities, growth areas, and strategies to fill open roles (Tech Pro Research)

The National Council for the American Worker, created by the order, will be composed of senior administration officials who will develop a national campaign to raise awareness of workforce issues and the importance of STEM education, help expand investments in apprenticeships and training programs, and create a plan to recognize companies that do so, according to the order.

"Reforming Federal policies to promote life-long skills training will be essential to closing the ever-widening skills gap caused by technological advancement," according to the order.

It's unclear at this point how companies would be recognized for investing in worker reskilling, but dozens including IBM and Accenture already have initiatives underway to do so, the Journal noted. Back in 2008, AT&T announced plans to retrain nearly half of its 250,000 employees for more digital-based jobs by 2020.

The impact of automation and artificial intelligence (AI) on jobs has long been a worry for Americans. While one Gartner report predicts that AI will eliminate 1.8 million jobs by 2020, but will create 2.3 million in that same timeframe; another from Ball State University predicts that half of low-skilled US jobs are at risk of being replaced by automation.

"Rather than slow the pace of progress, policymakers should do more to help those who are displaced successfully transition into new jobs and occupations," Robert D. Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, said in a statement on Thursday. "The executive order that the White House announced today gives needed attention to improving the way we train people for the jobs of tomorrow and rightly emphasizes the role that data and information sharing can play. More can and should be done to reduce employment risks, but supporting innovation and workforce training will ensure a growing standard of living for workers."

The big takeaways for tech leaders:

  • On Thursday, US President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order aiming to spur companies to retrain employees to fill tech skills gaps and address the impact of automation.
  • Some 23 companies and associations signed a pledge to hire or train more than 3.8 million US students and workers over the next five years.

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Image: iStockphoto/monkeybusinessimages

About Alison DeNisco Rayome

Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.

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