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U.S. Labor chief stresses job training during visit to Boeing's North Charleston plant

(WCIV)

The United States' top labor official made a stop Friday at Boeing's South Carolina facilities, highlighting a new Trump administration commitment to workforce development.

During U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta's visit to the aerospace giant's sprawling North Charleston plant, Boeing officials signed a pledge to invest in work-based education and training, with the company saying it's investing in programs to help employees hone technical skills and the latest tools and technologies.

"Investing in American workers is a strategy that will lead to great returns for individuals, for companies, for communities, and for our nation," Acosta said. "Boeing has set a great example with their pledge that many large and small businesses, unions, trade organizations, and educational institutions can repeat."

The pledge was follow-up to an executive order signed Thursday by President Donald Trump, who is asking companies to commit to enhancing their job training endeavors and invest in apprenticeship programs. The president said that nearly two dozen companies and trade organizations — including Boeing, Apple, General Motors and Walmart — had agreed to sign a pledge to provide the training for their workforce during the next five years.

"Companies are pouring back into our country — companies that frankly left 10 and 20 years ago — and they're coming back and we need people to work for those companies," Trump said Thursday. "We need talented people. We need people with training."

The president's 2016 campaign included a pitch to help the "forgotten men and women" who have suffered amid globalization and a shifting economy. The pledge and an executive order Trump signed creating a national council for U.S. workers and a workforce policy advisory board aim to address the needs of manufacturing workers as the president has engaged in trade disputes that have rattled the economy.

The White House said the "Pledge to America's Workers" would provide at least 3.8 million new career opportunities for students and workers over the next five years, including apprenticeships, work-based learning and continuing education.

Last month, employees on Boeing's South Carolina flight-line voted to unionize, a rare victory for organized labor in the South. On Friday, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers President Robert Martinez Jr. told The Associated Press that the Machinists "encourage companies making this pledge to also commit to working with unions so that we will have the highly-skilled workers we need to meet the challenges awaiting us."

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