Jobs, Jobs, and more Jobs. One role that we, as diplomats, play is that of business development. Why? Because of Shared Prosperity. Our economies are deeply intertwined so, a rising tide lifts all boats. Especially with a theme of quality job creation in this year’s State of the Union, we wanted to share the outcomes and opportunities from a meeting that was all about growing investment and jobs in the United States.
A week ago, on January 13th, I, along with Swiss Vice President Schneider-Ammann led a delegation of executives and CEOs from eight Swiss companies who have or will have a footprint in the United States to the White house to meet with Cabinet and senior members of the Obama administration to talk about doing business in the United States. The goal was to hear from these executives why they’ve chosen to invest in the United States and what additional opportunities and/or challenges they are seeing because of the business climate in the United States. In other words, for the U.S. Government officials, this was an opportunity to gather feedback in order to increase investment and -- ultimately, great jobs -- in the United States. For the executives, it was an opportunity to identify ways to further grow their businesses.
This was the first time business leaders from a single country have had a meeting of this kind in the White House. And this set of companies represented a diverse cross-section of Swiss Businesses -- diverse in size, industry, and location (both in Switzerland and the United States). They included Alevo Group, Bühler, the Kudelski Group, Nestlé, Novartis, Pilatus Aircraft, Reha Technology, and Zurich Insurance Group. And the right people from the administration were in the meeting to hear and act on their feedback. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez, Director of the National Economic Council Jeff Zients, Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, Executive Director of SelectUSA Vinai Thummalapally, Deputy National Security Council and National Economic Council Advisor Caroline Atkinson, and Acting Assistant Secretary of Education Johann Uvin were all there to listen, absorb, and discuss.
Feedback was shared and discussed regarding tax reform, immigration, IP protection, our shared values, and more.
The meeting was well-timed because that same day, new job statistics came out sharing a five million job gap in the United States. That means there are five million jobs going unfilled because there are not people with the skills to do those jobs. Today, in his State of the Union, President Obama spoke not just about creating great jobs but also about ensuring we have the workforce in the United States to do those jobs. And -- again -- this was a persistent theme for these companies. In order to further invest in the United States, they need a qualified work force with which to fill those jobs. Jobs of all shapes and sizes: software developers and IT professionals, insurance claims adjusters, metal workers, pharmaceutical lab technicians and on and on.
Now -- let me take a step back and answer a question that came up afterwards from a member of the press. “Why was Switzerland the first country to have this opportunity?” The German phrase "Klein aber fein" (small but excellent) comes to mind. This country of eight million inhabitants is not only the 6th largest foreign direct investor into the United States, but it is also among the fastest growing investors into the United States -- and is the number one investor in terms of research and development! Swiss companies created 472,000 jobs in the United States in 2013; really good jobs -- jobs with an average salary of almost $100,000 per year. In addition to those metrics, the other reason we brought Swiss companies and leadership to the White House was to discuss Switzerland’s apprenticeship model and to figure out how to have Swiss companies with a U.S. presence bring their apprenticeship models to their U.S. facilities.
So, going back to the point on the jobs of all shapes and sizes. Switzerland has developed a very robust model for apprenticeship and that model has contributed to a very low unemployment rate (which has ranged over this past year from 2.5-3.4 percent). In fact, two-thirds of students choose this path. It’s a path with many options and a tremendous national infrastructure. The Swiss have learned how to match people to jobs and address a job-skills gap -- and it’s through apprenticeship.
Coming out of the meeting, several of the companies made commitments to roll out apprenticeship programs at their U.S. facilities and to being leaders in this effort to encourage and grow apprenticeship in the United States. You can read more about the commitments from the Kudelski Group, Nestle, Pilatus, and Zurich Insurance Group in this fact sheet.
Our hope and belief is that this is just the start. These companies were representative of the larger set of companies from Switzerland who already do or will in the future have a presence in the United States. Companies like ABB, Daetwyler, Roche, Stadler Rail, and beyond -- who see our common focus on rule of law, our stability, our efforts around education and see a market in which they want to grow and a market that wants their goods and services. By listening and working together to pursue the opportunities and overcome the obstacles, we can have shared prosperity between our countries -- growing jobs, economic prosperity, and success around the globe!