Politics & Government

President Trump taps WSU Tech president for guidance on training future workforce

Sheree Utash, Courtesy WSU Tech
Sheree Utash, Courtesy WSU Tech

President Donald Trump has appointed the president of a Wichita technical college to a national board tasked with steering the future of higher education.

Sheree Utash, president of WSU Tech, formerly Wichita Area Technical College, was one of 25 members appointed to the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board on Wednesday. She will work with captains of industry such as Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, and Doug McMillan, president and CEO of Wal-Mart, to combat what Trump calls “a skills crisis” in the American workforce.

The United States has 7.3 million job openings, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

“This represents a mismatch between the skills needed and those being taught, requiring immediate attention to help more Americans enter the workforce,” Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said in a news release about the creation of the board.

The advisory board Utash is joining was established under Executive Order No. 13845, signed by Trump in July. Its mission is closely aligned with the mission of WSU Tech: to provide future workers with skills-based training.

The executive order says the task force will help make sure “America’s students and workers have access to affordable, relevant, and innovative education and job training that will equip them to compete and win in the global economy.”

“We must foster an environment of lifelong learning and skills-based training, and cultivate a demand-driven approach to workforce development,” the order says.

The task force is co-chaired by Ross and Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and one of his closest advisers. It was not immediately clear who nominated Utash for the position on the board.

“This is a chance to reframe and redesign education and training for skilled jobs in our country,” Utash said in a news release. “It offers the opportunity to align career technical education to meet business and industry needs and 21st Century skills that require a higher level of learning than past generations.”

Utash could not be reached for questions on Wednesday. She has been the president of WSU Tech since 2015 and oversaw its merger with Wichita State University in 2018. She has a doctorate of education from National American University, master’s of arts in communication, education and sociology from Wichita State and a bachelor of science in marketing from Kansas State University.

Earlier this week, WSU Tech announced the second year of a program that pays people to move to Wichita and trains them for free to help aviation companies meet their hiring needs. Students are guaranteed job interviews after graduation and often go on to work for Spirit AeroSystems or Textron Aviation, two companies in Wichita that are hiring.

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Republican Sen. Jerry Moran said her role will be to “make certain the Kansas voice is heard in top-level discussions on the future of our nation’s workforce.”

“Dr. Utash has been a strong partner in our work to increase opportunity for young people across our state, especially as it relates to skilled and technical education and careers in STEM (Science, Techonology, Engineering and Math),” Moran said.

Utash’s appointment will last until July 2020, and she will not receive compensation for her work on the board.

Ivanka Trump said during an announcement of the new task force that it will help “ensure inclusive growth” of the nation’s workforce.

“We want all Americans to have the skills and opportunities to secure good paying jobs and successfully navigate technological disruptions and the rapidly changing nature of work,” she said.

Chance Swaim won the Betty Gage Holland Award in 2018 for distinguished service to honor and protect the integrity of public dialogue on America’s college campuses. He has been a news reporter for The Wichita Eagle since 2018. You can contact him at 316-269-6752 and cswaim@wichitaeagle.com.