By Darlene Superville
Presidential adviser Ivanka Trump on Tuesday unveiled a White House-backed national ad campaign highlighting alternative ways to start a career, an initiative targeting students, mid-career workers, and the millions who are now unemployed because of the coronavirus.
Called “Find Something New,” the campaign is backed by Apple Inc. and IBM Corp. It was quickly bashed on social media as being tone deaf and inadequate for the times.
The Trump administration has long emphasized skills-based job and vocational training as an alternative to two- or four-year college degree programs for high school graduates, arguing that college isn't for everyone and that a degree isn't required for many jobs.
The campaign had been in the works for some time but gained new urgency after efforts to slow the coronavirus outbreak left millions of people unemployed.
Ivanka Trump said President Donald Trump has been talking about alternate career paths since the beginning of the administration, in part because of growing automation.
“Now as a result of COVID, people need to, unfortunately, in some cases, learn a completely new skill,” Ivanka Trump said, referring to COVID-19, the disease the virus causes.
She cast it as an opportunity for people to get on a “new trajectory” and said, "We want to facilitate that connection back to the workforce and make it as smooth as possible.”
Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, said the effort is “all well and good," but added that the White House and Congress must do more.
“For tens of millions of American workers slammed by the pandemic, it is about finding something at all,” Zandi said in an email. He urged both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue to pass another economic aid package to help those who are out of work or are working fewer hours and to prevent additional job losses and higher unemployment.
Ginny Rometty, IBM's executive chairman, said during the announcement that the campaign will help encourage companies to embrace “skills first” hiring as hers has done.
“Don't look just at a degree, but look at the skills someone has and let them get started,” she said.
Apple CEO Tim Cook said it was particularly important during a time of racial strife to connect people with resources that can help them find well-paying jobs and build lasting careers.
“That mission has never been more urgent than now,” Cook said.
The effort was panned by American Bridge 21st Century, a political action committee that supports Democratic candidates, and praised by the head of the Republican Party.
Kyle Morse, a spokesperson for American Bridge, said Trump was telling workers to “take a hike” after wrecking an economy that was supposed to be his selling point in the election.
He predicted voters this fall would “find something new’” by electing Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.
GOP chair Ronna McDaniel tweeted: “Fantastic partnership between the private sector, @IvankaTrump and the Trump administration aimed at helping Americans find the right path for their career goals.”
The nonprofit Ad Council created the “Find Something New” campaign with IBM, Apple, members of the Business Roundtable, and the White House's American Workforce Policy Advisory Board.
A 30-second spot unveiled Tuesday features ordinary people talking about their experiences with career challenges and transitions. Among them are a fitness instructor who completed an apprenticeship program and became a welder after her gym went under, and a man who lost his job twice in one year took online certification courses and now works as a tech consultant.
Tiffany Anderson, of Leander, Texas, says in the ad that she had no career plan after finishing high school, but became a phlebotomist after taking a medical course online.
“You will find something,” she says.
A companion website offers links to education and training options, including online and virtual learning.
Ads will appear nationwide across TV, digital and print platforms in time and space donated by various media companies, the Ad Council said.
More than 20 corporations and organizations, including Apple, IBM, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, funded the campaign. The Ad Council declined to say how much it cost.