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Pres. Trump speaks at Granite Steel

President Donald Trump introduces his daughter, Ivanka Trump, to steel workers and friends at Granite City Works on Thursday, July 26, 2018. Photo by J.B. Forbes, jforbes@post-dispatch.com

WASHINGTON • Ivanka Trump will join Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, Ill., Wednesday in a tour of a state-of-the art welding education facility at the Lewis and Clark Community College in Godfrey, to highlight her father’s initiatives on workforce training.

The visit to the college will continue a parade of administration officials to the St. Louis region over the last three weeks. President Donald Trump on July 26 toured the U.S. Steel plant in Granite City, which is resuming production of new steel and rehiring workers. Ivanka Trump, daughter and senior adviser to the president, accompanied him on that trip and was introduced by the president. Vice President Mike Pence was in St. Louis the previous week.

The White House said this would be an official, not political visit, designed to highlight the challenge of automation and lack of skilled workers in some areas of the U.S. economy, including welding. But the political geography of these administration visits is undeniable. Both Davis’ seat and the next-door U.S. House seat held by Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, Ill., are pivotal in who controls the House of Representatives beginning in 2019. Bost appeared with Trump in Granite City late last month.

“We want to highlight this facility as one of those that has a great program that the nation should take a look at,” said Jessica Ditto, deputy director for communications in the White House. “But as far as any political implications, this is an official visit, and it is something that is part of our commitment that private-sector companies are making to the president’s pledge to the American worker.”

The White House has pushed initiatives in recent week that are focused on job training, and some companies have stepped forward to sign official pledges to help on that front.

Ditto argued that tax cuts and regulatory relief have boosted the economy to the point where an estimated 6.1 million jobs are now unfilled. She said other studies have shown that a significant portion of American workers’ jobs are threatened by future automation.

“We still have tremendous need for farmers, welders, construction workers all across this country, because the country is growing, the economy is thriving and we need to fill those jobs,” Ditto said. “We certainly see it as something that this school provides — advanced technology in welding.”

Davis, a three-term member of Congress, is in a tough re-election fight with Democrat Betsy Dirksen Londrigan in Illinois’ 13th Congressional District. Granite City, visited by Trump last month, is in the 12th District now represented by Bost, who faces a stiff challenge from Democrat Brendan Kelly.

Ivanka Trump has pushed a lot of her father’s initiatives on workforce issues. Last week, Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin, cited support from Ivanka Trump when Wagner said she would introduce legislation in September allowing parents to draw early on their Social Security benefits for paid leave after a child is born.

Davis has consistently advocated for worker training and infrastructure upgrades as areas where Congress can come to bipartisan agreements. He co-sponsored bipartisan legislation offering tax breaks for companies that retrain workers.

While Congress has passed some initiatives aimed at job training, it has not been able to pass anything approaching Trump’s campaign promise to upgrade the nation’s transportation and communications infrastructure, which advocates say would provide jobs across a wide swath of the American economy.

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