Trump expands funding for apprentice programs

President Trump signed an executive order last week granting additional funding to apprentice programs in an effort to close the widely publicized skills gap. 

There are about six million open positions in the United States today, and only 500,000 apprenticeship positions, Laurie Kellman reports for the Associated Press.

Based on a report from the Obama administration, employers could be using apprentice programs more broadly for many of the hard-to-fill positions that exist. What makes hiring for these positions difficult is that many workers do not have the skills required to fulfill them, according to R. Alexander Acosta, the U.S. Secretary of Labor.

Trump's executive order expands already existing apprentice programs, called "learn-to-earn" programs. The executive order repurposes $100 million for the expansion, adding to the $90 million that was already devoted to apprentice programs, Kellman writes. It also gives the private sector greater control in designing apprentice programs, but they would still need to have their programs approved by the Department of Labor.

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Many business leaders have expressed support for the plan, Noam Scheiber reports for the New York Times. For example, in a 2014 op-ed, JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon praised apprentice programs as a source of skilled workers for jobs in health care and other jobs that provide middle-class wages. 

"We applaud the Department of Labor and the administration for being willing to look at how to craft this in a way that brings apprenticeships to a new range of audiences," says Rob Gifford, executive vice president of the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. Gifford says he also hopes the Trump administration will ease regulations on apprentice programs, as he believes this would improve their outcomes.

The Association of Community College Trustees praised the order as well, but also expressed concerns about "the severe cuts proposed to federal work force and education programs."

The Trump administration says the executive order is consistent with Trump's promise during the campaign to create jobs. Trump says the order is particularly designed to help Americans who have no college degree. He says the order will enable more people to participate in an apprentice program, get a good job, and avoid college debt (Kellman, AP/PBS, 6/15; Scheiber, New York Times, 6/15).

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