U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta was in Pittsburgh Wednesday morning to speak at the Shale Insight Conference and tour the Carpenters' Union Training Center.
Acosta, who was confirmed as Secretary of Labor in April, mentioned that the Trump administration is passionate about making sure the American workforce has the skills they need to succeed in their jobs.
"The drillers and the miners and the growers, the makers and the builders, the movers and the drivers are individuals that make all that we have possible," Acosta said at the shale conference, adding these people are often overlooked.
There are more jobs in Pittsburgh than there are qualified people to fill them, according to Acosta.
"Across industries we have a mismatch between the skills the workplace demands and the skills our educational institutions provide our workforce," he said. "The apprenticeship model offers demand-driven education, providing skills that lead to family-sustaining jobs."
The Carpenters' Union Training Center aims to bridge the gap between what's learned in school and the technical skills needed for available jobs in the industry. Pittsburgh's training center is connected to ten others in the region through the Keystone + Mountain + Lakes Regional Council of Carpenters, currently preparing 1,800 apprentices in total for a carpentry career.
"[The training center] provides career training, a career ladder and provides access to great jobs," Acosta said while touring the facility. "We need more places just like this."
He said the Trump administration wants to see apprenticeship programs expanded into other fields, mentioning pharmaceuticals as a possible option.
"The apprenticeship model can work in all trades, and this is an example of it being done just the right way," he said.
Acosta commended the Carpenters' Union Training Center because it uses no federal money. He said the funding comes from a joint effort between industry and the union, calling it "a local, organic process."
Bill Waterkotte, Executive Secretary Treasurer of the Keystone + Mountain + Lakes Council, said having Acosta tour the facility was "fabulous," and he appreciated the secretary's hands on approach.
"We are constantly going to our schools, our career fairs, our tech centers and getting the message out that college isn't for everybody," Waterkotte said. "A well-run trade organization is a viable career alternative for many, many young men and women."