Ivanka Trump, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross visit Charlotte to promote manufacturing

Updated: Jun. 18, 2019 at 4:22 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Ivanka Trump and US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross visited Charlotte on Tuesday as part of an effort to promote workforce development and future-focused manufacturing jobs.

Trump, who serves as an adviser to her father, President Donald Trump, and Ross co-chair the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board. Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles is also on the board.

The group’s first stop was to the Siemens manufacturing facility in south Charlotte. The plan manufactures turbines for energy generating equipment.

During the tour of the Siemens plant, Trump, Ross and Lyles met with apprentice employees in the plant’s program that helps train young workers to equip them with skills necessary to get full-time employment at the plant following graduation.

After the tour, the board held a formal meeting at the Foundation for the Carolinas.

WBTV spoke one-on-one with Ross on the floor of the Siemens plant.

Ross said the group he co-leads with Trump is an effort to spotlight modern manufacturing and the number of jobs available in the sector.

“I think the average American has no idea what a modern factor looks like,” Ross said. “Modern factory--look at this one--is like a laboratory than one’s mind image. In the old movies, you saw factories dark, smelly, dangerous, oil-filled floors; no more.”

Ross said there are more than a million manufacturing jobs available in the United States without bodies in the workforce capable of filling them.

“There’s largely a skill-set mismatch that is the reason for that gap,” he said.

During the interview, Ross dismissed questions about what impact, if any, the ongoing trade war with China and the escalating tariff fight might have on the manufacturing sector.

“Are you worried that some of those manufacturing jobs will start to contract if the long-term tariff fight with countries like China continues?” a WBTV reporter asked.

“They’re not going to contract. The US is the best place in the world for people to locate,” Ross said.

Ross also pushed back on the notion that the shifting dynamics of international trade--fueled by uncertainty surrounding tariffs--could play a role in re-shaping America’s manufacturing workforce.

“Well, simple tasks are being taken care of with robotics. You see that at some of the installations here. Simple tasks--another kind--are being taken care of with 3-D printing; so-called advanced manufacturing,” Ross said. “So it changes the nature of the job. The job now is more design, more quality control, more sophisticated work than it had been. So it’s not that there’s less work, it’s just a different kind of work and work that requires a bit more training.”

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