Ivanka Trump back in the spotlight for workforce development week
Posted June 10, 2017 1:59 p.m. EDT
After maintaining a relatively low profile over the last month, Ivanka Trump is stepping back in the spotlight forcefully next week for a White House focus on workforce development.
The first daughter and presidential adviser will join her father at a series of events from Tuesday to Thursday to highlight administration initiatives on vocational training and apprenticeships as well as legislative priorities like college affordability.
The White House's "workforce development week" follows a thematic focus this past week on infrastructure -- an effort largely overshadowed by President Donald Trump's tweets Sunday on the terrorist attacks in London and former FBI director James Comey's bombshell testimony Thursday on Capitol Hill about his interactions with Trump and the investigation into campaign aides' contacts with Russian officials.
The upcoming activities will present the White House with another opportunity to try to set the agenda and messaging for the week - if the President stays on topic. It comes, inopportunely, as embattled Attorney General Jeff Sessions prepares to testify Tuesday before Senate appropriators about the Justice Department's budget, a forum that likely will turn into a grilling from Democrats about Comey and Russia.
On Tuesday, the President, first daughter and Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta will visit Waukesha County Technical College in Wisconsin, where they will tour classrooms and participate in discussion with Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who made a short-lived bid for the GOP presidential nomination in 2015.
Wednesday, the President will make a major policy speech on his administration's workforce development initiative, and Ivanka Trump will lead a roundtable discussion with CEOs. On Thursday, eight governors who have been leaders in workforce development will participate in a discussion at the White House led by Ivanka Trump, her father, Acosta and Vice President Mike Pence.
Ivanka Trump told reporters Friday that she first took an interest in apprenticeships and vocational training while meeting voters on the campaign trail. But the week is also a hat tip to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, with whom she held a discussion with German business leaders on the issue at the White House earlier this year. The German apprenticeship model is widely viewed as a success, with about a third of students enrolled in some type of vocational training.
While visiting Berlin in April, Ivanka Trump toured a Siemens apprenticeship training center.
"A skill-based education is an enormous priority" for the administration, she said during the visit. "Germany has been blazing the path."
On Friday, she called vocational training a "bipartisan issue," noting the administration has been working closely with business leaders, trade groups, congressional leaders, governors, educators, academics and students while planning the initiatives for the week.
Trump herself has held meetings with CEOs and Cabinet secretaries to focus on the issue, according to an administration official.
Trump, who has defined women's economic empowerment as a key priority for her, specifically referenced the lack of equal participation by women and minorities in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, something she highlighted on social media this week.
"That's something we really have to think about how we're going to change," she told reporters, noting that women's participation in STEM fields is "moving in the wrong direction."
On Thursday, she posted a photo of her learning to code with daughter Arabella, 5. The mother and daughter pair is taking a class together this summer.
The building industry, which the first family knows well from its decades of work in real estate development, has deep ties with apprenticeship programs, partly because construction work requires certifications by trade groups. The administration is looking to encourage in other industries to follow in that model, a senior White House official said.
And while Trump's show "The Apprentice" may be noted in jest, it will not be tied officially to the week's programming, the official said.