President Donald Trump directed the Education Department to invest a minimum of $200 million in grant funding each year to expand STEM and computer science education in schools, signing a presidential memorandum Monday.
The effort, which will include a “substantial pledge” from the private sector in an announcement coming Tuesday, was spearheaded by Ivanka Trump, a senior adviser to the President.
“Our country’s long been the leader in innovation fueled by the skills, creativity and grit of our workforce. In recent years with growing technological advancements, the nature of our workforce has increasingly shifted to jobs requiring a different skill set, specifically in coding and computer science,” Ivanka Trump told reporters in a conference call.
She called the presidential memorandum “an enormous step forward toward an important milestone of aligning the skills being taught in our classroom with the jobs that exist in the country.”
The President signed the memorandum in the Oval Office Monday afternoon, surrounded by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, lawmakers, his daughter, and a diverse group of students.
“I’ve asked Ivanka to lead up the White House efforts on workforce development, and the initiative today is a critical part of that endeavor,” he said.
Ivanka Trump said she has worked on the initiative alongside the Education Department, Labor Department, business leaders, educators, nonprofits and governors, with initial conversations starting during the presidential transition.
Female participation in computer science-related jobs has declined since 1990, and the White House’s guidance to the Education Department asks “that these programs be designed with gender and racial diversity in mind,” Trump said.
The Obama administration called for $4 billion for computer science education in an initiative announced in January 2016; however, that funding never materialized from Congress.
“While the previous administration recognized that this was an important initiative, ultimately, beyond the announcement, they were not able to act upon it because they did not get the congressional legislation they needed,” a senior Trump administration official said.
The Trump administration announcement directs investment from Education Department’s funding and does not require additional legislation, according to Reed Cordish, also an assistant to the President.
“It directs the secretary of education to explore administrative action that will add or increase focus on computer science in existing K through 12 and post-secondary programs,” Cordish said, noting that the memo signed by the President requires that an annual report be done to assess the initiative’s effectiveness.
The first daughter will travel to Detroit on Tuesday for the accompanying announcement from the private sector. On Wednesday, she will highlight STEM and computer education, visiting a public school alongside Microsoft President Brad Smith and nonprofit Code.org CEO Hadi Partovi.
The real estate businesswoman turned entrepreneur turned White House aide has a West Wing portfolio that includes women’s economic empowerment, combating human trafficking, paid family leave, a childcare tax credit, workforce development and promoting STEM education, among other initiatives.
While her focus on STEM began with an interest in technology and innovation, Trump has also made a commitment to engaging her own children from a young age.
Speaking to students earlier this year at Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum, Trump announced that she would be taking a coding class over the summer with daughter Arabella, 6, calling coding “the language of the future.”
On Monday, the President had some advice for the students in the Oval Office, encouraging them to “always follow your hearts.”
“Always remember this: Do what you love. Study what you love. Your parents may want you to do something and you should always listen to your parents, but try to focus on the things that you love, whether it’s in studies or when you get out of school, do what you love and you’re going be successful,” he said.