Presidential daughter and White House adviser Ivanka Trump took to the stage at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas on Tuesday afternoon to opine on “The Future of Work,” a keynote choice that confounded many attendees who pointed out that she has no background in tech. It turns out that the future of work, at least according to her, in large part revolves around not going to college.
Consumer Technology Association chief executive Gary Shapiro spent nearly 40 minutes lobbing softball questions at Trump, who both bragged about her father’s administration and made thinly veiled appeals to the Republican party’s base. Trump said that the current presidential administration wants to work with the private sector to encourage them to retrain workers instead of laying them off en masse, emphasising that federal jobs retraining programs aren’t effective (arguably true) and that instead the government should “celebrate other pathways” to work than college. This line of rhetoric fails to address the Donald Trump’s apparent disinterest in fixing America’s broken student loan system, despite the fact that its own officials have resigned to protest the status quo.
Ivanka Trump, meanwhile, told the surprisingly polite crowd at CES that all this talk of college and degrees is misplaced in the United States. The president’s daughter claimed, without evidence, “Amazingly, four out of 10 Americans with a college degree are working in jobs that don’t require one.”
This talking point and Trump’s larger argument for less education and more skills-based training sounds a lot like the work of Harvard Business School professor Joseph B. Fuller, who has made direct appeals to the Trump administration to bolster on-the-job training and written on degree inflation. That particular four out of 10 stat appears to be sourced to a 2018 study that found graduates “who accept or are forced into sub-bachelor’s level jobs early in their careers suffer significant long-term consequences.” Whether or not this is true is sort of beside the point in a conversation about the future of work and technology, though. The way that Trump spoke dismissively about the value of a college education just makes you wonder if she’s appealing to her father’s biggest fans: less educated white people.
Still, Ivanka did make an effort to connect her dad’s campaign promises to the goings-on at the tech conference. She seems to think that high tech manufacturing jobs – like the ones the president falsely claimed to have created at an Apple facility in Texas – are in abundance. Trump argued that there are millions of unfilled jobs across the country due to skills mismatch. This is something she loves to talk about on Fox News.
“There is a technical application and a technical literacy that’s required,” Trump told the audience. “So it’s not only about training for the jobs of the future; companies need to invest in training their current workforce.”
Trump added that today’s blue collar workers “may need to be re-skilled multiple times in your career, and you’re not going to go back to college to do it.” (As if this were somehow a positive development and not a vision of a future with a permanently destabilized economy.) Instead of radical changes, Trump touted public-private initiatives the White House is working on as they “love working alongside the private sector because they help us scale our ideas.” Whether the employers are the solution or the cause of the problem is extremely debatable.
Elsewhere, Trump largely trotted out bland administration talking points about apprenticeships (which the White House has largely stalled on), how the “president campaigned on lifting all Americans” (lol), and that pay is rising fastest for low earners (overall gains are weak and due in part to state and local minimum wage increases blocked by Trump allies on the federal level). Trump added that the president thinks it is “absolutely insane that we educate immigrants from around the world and just when they’re about to start companies, we throw them out of the country.” (President Trump’s policies encourage exactly the opposite). Ivanka also found time to mention the White House’s efforts to train incarcerated persons to re-enter the workforce, one of the few Barack Obama-era education programs to survive the Trump era, and its signing of a bill that mandates 12-week paid parental leave.
Trump ultimately suggested that perhaps what American workers really need is a way to “harness technology and data” to store their resume info on their smartphones, which is great news because the nation’s top scientists have been baffled on how to store electronic copies of documents on a smartphone for years.
"We need to harness technology & data to have [people's] information in their iPhone...Why can't you have your high school degree in your iPhone & verified so an employer doesn't have to call to verify? " Ivanka Trump on the work she sees for optimizing big data. #CES2020
– Connie Guglielmo (@techledes) January 7, 2020
All in all, a great opportunity for Ivanka Trump to burnish her resume as someone taking up space that would be better filled by someone qualified. Of course, alliances with organisations like the Consumer Technology Association and appearances at big conferences like CES certainly seem like a great opportunity for Trump to practice her campaigning skills. If her father gets reelected in 2020, she should probably be ready to replace him in 2024 or the Trump dynasty might fail to live up to its truly terrifying potential.