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A Good First Step on Apprenticeship, But Other Skills Programs Still Needed

National Skills Coalition applauds Trump Administration’s efforts to expand apprenticeship, but hopes it doesn’t come at the cost of needed training for millions of U.S. workers 

The following is a statement from Andy Van Kleunen, CEO, National Skills Coalition on the Expanding Apprenticeships in America Executive Order:

“National Skills Coalition applauds President Trump’s call for more Americans to enroll in apprenticeships that lead to some of the millions of available, good-paying jobs in the U.S. that do not require a four-year college degree. While we have questions about some of the proposal’s details, the President’s Executive Order, Expanding Apprenticeships in America, seems to adopt elements of NSC’s long-standing recommendation to harness the collective power of associations of employers, unions, and other industry stakeholders to update local workforce strategies. 

We’re pleased that the proposal calls for a public comment period for any regulations issued by the Department of Labor. This will allow businesses and workforce stakeholders to provide input into how these new “industry-recognized apprenticeships” might complement the existing registered apprenticeship system. We are also pleased to see that the order includes funding to promote apprenticeships at secondary and postsecondary institutions and new industries, and we hope the Secretary of Labor will ensure that the largest portion of funding does not remain in DC, but goes to local industry partnerships involving local employers, since small companies hire the majority of people in this country.

NSC hopes to work with the administration to make sure the new system offers the protections and transparency necessary to ensure that new apprentices will receive the necessary wage gains and industry certifications that will put them on a path to a family supporting career.

At the same time, we need to assess the potential of this apprenticeship proposal against the broader workforce needs of the U.S. economy. The president has correctly called attention to the millions of good jobs that do not require a four-year college degree, and which our nation’s policymakers have generally ignored. To meet that demand, new apprentices – and millions of other U.S. workers – will require training and technical education at local high schools, community colleges, and workforce organizations that rely on federal funding. Other elements of the president’s executive order, including its requirement that federal agencies propose elimination of job training programs, could undermine the potential benefits of this apprenticeship initiative, and likely deepen the national skills gap the president has highlighted.

It cannot be ignored that the president’s proposed 2018 budget slashed funding to the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, to the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, and to Adult Education. These federal programs have strong bipartisan support in Congress, and are being reformed to be more responsive to the needs of business through local industry partnerships.  However, so long as they continue to be underfunded after more than a decade of cuts, our nation’s training programs will never be able to respond to the needs of these local companies – a trend that has frustrated small and medium businesses who struggle to find technically skilled workers.

National Skills Coalition looks forward to working with the administration, Congress, and other stakeholders to open up pathways to apprenticeships, better meet the workforce needs of U.S. companies, and ensure that our public investments build the most highly skilled workforce in the world.

NSC’s full analysis of the administration’s apprenticeship proposal will be available on our Skills Blog.

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National Skills Coalition is a broad-based coalition of employers, unions, education and training providers, and public officials working toward a vision of an America that grows its economy by investing in its people so that every worker and every industry has the skills to compete and prosper.