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Ivanka Trump says Alabama is a leader in finding solutions to the nation's shortage of skilled workers.
Trump visited Tanner on Tuesday to announce the expansion of an apprenticeship program. She told a room full of students how impressed she was during her visit.
"I have toured programs across the nation. I have visited well over half the states, specifically to visit programs such as this. This truly is a great program. I know there will be much success as you scale it and take it into its new iteration," she said.
WAAY 31 learned how the expansion of the Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education, also known as FAME, will benefit Alabama and the country.
"I'm very proud to be part of this program and proud to be on the ground floor of Mazda-Toyota and everything that is going on right now in North Alabama," Allison Doyal, a FAME student, said.
Allison Doyal is a Calhoun Community College student and also a part of the FAME program. She said she was excited for President Trump's daughter, Ivanka, to visit the Alabama Robotics Technology Park.
"It is a huge opportunity for the state of Alabama and our school, personally, to have a spotlight shown on the advancement we're making in the technological industry as well as manufacturing," Doyal said.
Trump met with many students and asked questions about the apprenticeship program. She also helped announce the FAME program, created by Toyota, will expand nationwide as the demand for skilled workers rises. Alabama is one of only 13 states that currently offers it.
"Today is about celebrating the Manufacturing Institute coming in and taking best in-class practices from the private sector and scaling that opportunity so that many, many more Americans can experience this pathway," Ivanka Trump said.
Trump said there are more job vacancies in the United States right now than unemployed workers.
"We are very, very passionate about this at the White House. We have seen, and we are seeing it right here in Alabama, record-low unemployment rates. Alabama just hit a new low of 3.3%. We are seeing inclusive growth," she said.
Toyota North America executives said the quality of the workforce in North Alabama played a big role in the area being chosen as the home for the multibillion-dollar Mazda-Toyota plant.
"We have confidence that we can begin now, even before we roll the first vehicle off our line, to build the workforce that we need to be successful in the future," Chris Nielsen with Toyota North America said.
Ivanka Trump didn't take any questions from the audience or from WAAY 31 but spent nearly two hours at the Alabama Robotics Technology Park on Tuesday to talk about the apprenticeship program.
The Manufacturing Institute says a baby boomer retires every eight seconds, and there are few skilled workers to fill those jobs. If they don't close the gap soon, some 2.5 million jobs will go unfilled in the next decade.
"Toyota did something exceptional in creating a pilot that was excellent to train that next generation of high-tech manufactures and then start to scale it across the country, but it developed a life of its own," Ivanka Trump said.
Students at the technology park said they are still in disbelief they spent the day with her.
"Never again in my life am I going to be able to talk, actually give a presentation about the program I am in, to the president's daughter," Jeffrey Neill said.
Trump praised Toyota for the program, which gives students opportunities to work in their field while getting an associate degree debt-free.
"She was telling me about how the jobs are endless. We just need to go after them basically," Lexandra Lutz, a FAME student, said. "She has a drive for manufacturing and she wants to make sure everybody sees that there are jobs out there and the success rate that is out there for manufacturing."
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