Executive Order Creates Apprenticeship Task Force

Kathy Gurchiek By Kathy Gurchiek June 16, 2017
Executive Order Creates Apprenticeship Task Force

President Donald Trump issued an executive order on June 15 to expand apprenticeships and vocational training.

The order calls for creating a Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion, an Excellence in Apprenticeship Program and industry-recognized apprenticeships. It also calls for promoting apprenticeships at colleges and universities and expanding access to apprenticeships. Finally, it directs the head of each government agency that administers any job-training program to evaluate—using a third party, when feasible—the effectiveness of those efforts. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) will fund the task force.

The president said his order empowers companies, unions, industry groups and federal agencies "to go out and create new apprenticeships for millions of our citizens." The directive removes what he called "federal restrictions that have prevented many different industries from creating apprenticeship programs." However, he did not specify what those restrictions are.

CNN reported that the new program will cost $200 million and take some authority away from the DOL, noting that "the executive order is more of a directive and less a dramatic change in administrative policy." It quoted one official who said there were 43 separate workforce programs across 13 federal agencies.

The executive order was the latest in a flurry of activity this week by the former host of the TV show "The Apprentice" to tout the benefits of experience-based job training. The president said that he met with some of the nation's governors on the morning of June 15 to discuss how his administration can work with them to expand the workforce training initiative, and the day before he met with CEOs of major U.S. companies who support apprenticeship initiatives.

He originally was scheduled to speak to the DOL on June 14 and sign the executive order then, but that was postponed after a gunman opened fire on a congressional baseball practice at a park in Alexandria, Va. Trump opened a White House briefing on June 15 by calling for thoughts and prayers for House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., and his family. Scalise, who remained in the hospital in critical but improved condition two days after the shooting, was among those injured. Trump also praised Capitol Police officers and other first responders for their efforts to save lives.

Earlier in the week, Trump and his eldest daughter, Ivanka, visited Waukesha County Technical College in Milwaukee with 2016 presidential campaign rival Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin. In a speech there, Trump said he wanted all high schools in the U.S. to offer apprenticeships, "programs that open up more opportunities for all students, whether they want to go to a four-year college, a technical college, trade school, or work and learn as a skilled apprentice."

In a White House press briefing June 12, DOL Secretary Alexander Acosta noted that while the average starting salary for apprentices who have completed their training is $60,000,  those who have gone through apprenticeship programs make up only 3 percent of the U.S. workforce.

In his executive order, Trump said that expanding apprenticeships and "reforming ineffective education and workforce development programs" will help unemployed Americans gain relevant work experience and skills and help match them with available jobs.

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Using Government and Other Resources for Employment and Training Programs]

The federal government has certified apprenticeship programs for more than 75 years, according to the DOL, and there are more than 533,000 apprenticeships available in more than 1,000 occupations throughout the U.S. The DOL's Office of Apprenticeship offers the Quick Start Toolkit for employers that want to create an apprenticeship program and information on what an apprenticeship typically entails

In recent years the U.S. has been looking to European models that "provide fast-tracked, on-the-job training in white-collar professions," according to The Hechinger Report. The Report, which covers innovations in education, is a project of the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media at the Columbia University Teachers College in New York City.
Rebekah Rombom, vice president of career services and business development at the Flatiron School in the greater New York City area, offered organizations some tips for creating apprenticeships. The school trains students in web development through 12 intensive weeks of instruction, works with organizations to develop curricula that target the job skills they seek in job candidates, and helps companies develop their own apprenticeships.

She said HR professionals should designate a manager who will pair each apprentice with an employee who can answer questions and provide feedback. HR professionals should also allow time for onboarding. As with any employee, she said, expect apprentices to take a few weeks to be productive. Also, consider starting a pilot program.

"Building an apprenticeship program from scratch can seem like a giant mountain to climb," Rombom told SHRM Online in an e-mail. "But we've worked with companies to build programs that started as small as [having] one apprentice."

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