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Remarks by Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross at the 4th Meeting of the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board at the Indiana Women's Prison


As we learned this morning, re-entry programs like The Last Mile should be replicated in every state in the country, particularly since there are 7 million jobs that remain vacant and need to be filled.

Yet, even more important, is the need to create fulfilling career paths for the 2.3 million people locked up in state, local, and federal prisons and jails. Second-chance reentry and employment programs provide new career opportunities for those who have paid their debt to society. Early results show that 70 percent of participants in programs like The Last Mile turn out to be loyal and effective workers. And the recidivism rate is low.

Additionally, over the last three years of the Second Chance Pell program, more than 100 students have earned credits towards associate’s and bachelor’s degrees through the Moreau College Initiative. Ten of the students have earned their bachelor’s degrees and 46 have earned their associate’s. And there are other programs like it that we need to replicate.

In a meeting I had this week in New York with World Economic Forum founder Klaus Schwab, he described how the Forum is sponsoring with Oracle Corp. the “Code for the Future” pilot project that is providing children in juvenile prisons with training in software coding. The goal is to break the vicious cycle of recidivism.

Your initiative at the Indiana Women’s Prison is typical of your state, not only today, but when Vice President Pence was Governor. You have done something few other states have been able to achieve: You have maintained a vibrant industrial base by focusing on a skilled workforce, economic development, and investment. They all go hand-in-hand.

In September, this Advisory Board’s four working groups delivered 13 recommendations that exceeded expectations. They are posted on the Board’s website, and they are both thorough and excellent. As Ivanka noted, we shared those recommendations with the National Council for the American Worker. And I am pleased to report that we are seeing them through to fruition.

The Board asked for an inventory of labor market data as well as a new tool to provide clear information on local labor-force participation, and the characteristics of people who are outside the labor force. The Census Bureau will launch such an inventory on December 10, as part of a new “Data Curation Hub.”

In addition, a working group of the Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics has been examining how best to produce a “local labor-market situation” tool. They found that the data needed for a tool already exists, but is in different formats, and is scattered across multiple websites. The challenge is to bring those data points together in one format to help companies understand the availability of workers. Early next year, they will issue a public call for the creation of such a tool through the popular website."

Elsewhere, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has committed to continuing its state-level Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey — the so-called “JOLTS” — pilot program. BLS is working with state and local governments to improve the collection of this data. We are also working with the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council to develop a playbook for community leaders to provide residents in Opportunity Zones with the right skills for jobs that are in demand. As Barbara will discuss shortly, we have drawn upon recommendations from her working group to develop a proposal for a new award program.

During today’s discussion, we will learn about ongoing work related to interoperable learning records, and the multiple pathways campaign. Our working group co-chairs will provide updates on their progress since September. They will seek the full board’s input on specific questions related to their ongoing projects. Our discussions are intended to guide the working groups as they draft recommendations for the Board’s final two meetings scheduled for next March 19th, and June 25th. 
Finally, Jennifer Morgan, the co-CEO of SAP, is a new addition to our Advisory Board. Jennifer is replacing former SAP CEO Bill McDermott on our board, since Bill has moved on to become the CEO of ServiceNow in Silicon Valley. SAP has been dedicated to our activities. The company signed the White House Pledge to America’s Workers, and has committed to training and skills development for 87,000 of its U.S. employees.

Unfortunately, I must leave a few minutes early to attending a rescheduled White House meeting, but I look forward to hearing your ideas today. 
Now I ask our esteemed host, Governor Holcomb, to provide some remarks, and for his perspective on our activities.