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Executive Order Expands Apprentice Program

Thursday, June 22, 2017

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President Donald J. Trump last week issued an executive order aimed at expanding federal apprenticeship programs, increasing funding for apprenticeships to $200 million while loosening restrictions on how they're regulated.

“We’re training people to have great jobs and high-paying jobs,” Trump said at a White House ceremony Thursday (June 15). “We’re here today to celebrate the dignity of work and the greatness of the American worker.”

What He’s Proposing

Although the plan is to increase the funding for apprenticeships, it won’t necessarily be from new funds. Trump’s budget proposes cuts to federal job-training funding by as much as 40 percent—from $2.7 billion to $1.6 billion.

However, he is also directing a government review of 43 workforce programs and 13 agencies, and officials have suggested that the “new funds” would actually come from existing money that has been shuffled around from that streamlining process.

The apprenticeship boost would also limit regulation of apprenticeships by the Department of Labor. Instead of all apprenticeships being approved by the DOL on a mandatory basis, private entities could establish their own apprenticeships and programs and submit them to the DOL for inclusion on an optional apprenticeship registry.

The order aims to address the “skills gap” that has influenced labor shortages, such as the estimated 500,000-job shortage in the construction industry, and the 6 million vacant jobs in the United States.

While Trump did not officially announce a job goal that the “earn while you learn” model would help to achieve, he was challenged in March by Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff to create 5 million apprenticeships in the next five years.

Last year, U.S. apprenticeships totaled about 500,000, and about 50 percent of those were in the construction industry, according to the DOL.

Reaction

The Associated Builders and Contractors applauded the move, pointing to both the job shortage and the industry’s stake in apprenticeships.

“Associated Builders and Contractors looks forward to working with the secretaries of labor, commerce and education to implement the executive order and develop new, innovative and effective models to train an expanding American workforce,” said ABC President and CEO Mike Bellaman.

“With our industry in need of half a million workers today and even more in the future, we need to expand upon current apprenticeship methods that have left us with a worker shortage and embrace an all-of-the-above training approach to meet the needs of a 21st century workforce. "

While expanding apprenticeships and creating jobs gets bipartisan support in general, the executive order has been met with skepticism from both the privatization and funding standpoints.

Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., a ranking Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, supports the expansion but questions the lack of registry requirement.

 “We’re concerned about the unregistered programs,” Scott said. “The key is accountability.”

   

Tagged categories: Associated Builders and Contractors Inc. (ABC); Construction; Jobs; North America; President Trump; Program/Project Management; Worker training

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