President Trump touts apprenticeship program to bolster job skills, signs executive order

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Thursday that looks to expand apprenticeships and job-training programs by giving more freedom to third-party companies and schools.

The new program, which will cost $200 million and take some authority away from the Department of Labor, looks to start filling the 6 million vacant jobs in the United States that are vacant, in part, because job training doesn’t match the skills needed. Labor will provide oversight on the program.

“I want to thank my daughter Ivanka and her leadership. She has worked so hard on this,” the president said during his remarks. “She understands how important it is. We’re training people to have great jobs–high-paying jobs.”

Encouraging apprenticeships is one issue the Trump White House will likely be able to find bipartisan support — something somewhat unheard of in the first few months of the Trump administration. Democrats have stressed the need to train Americans for the jobs that are available, and Hillary Clinton, Trump’s 2016 opponent, made pushing apprenticeship programs a part of her campaign.

The president said the executive order would expand apprenticeships and vocational training to help all Americans find a good career and “love going to work in the morning.”

The executive order is more of a directive and less a dramatic change in administrative policy. The order creates a task force to recommend ways to promote apprenticeships and require all federal agencies to evaluate their training programs — one official said that was “43 separate work force programs that are spread across 13 agencies that total $16.7 billion a year” — and consider how to consolidate the programs.

The biggest change: Trump will “direct the Department of Labor to allow companies, trade associations, and union to develop their own ‘industry-recognized apprenticeship’ guidelines, which the Department of Labor will review for quality and then approve.”

“Apprenticeships place students into great jobs without the crippling debt of four-year college degrees. Instead, apprentices learn while they learn,” Trump said.

White House officials said Trump and the administration worked with Democrats and labor unions on this proposal.

“We really applaud labor unions,” said one official, who added that they have been “leaders in this issue” and have been “incredibly supportive of this effort.”

“The more American workers we are going to create, they hope a lot of them become union members,” the official said.

One official specifically said the White House has worked with Rep. Bobby Scott, a Virginia Democrat, to put the proposal together.

And following the executive order, Trump is expected to call on Congress to act.

“Conversations have already started and have been well embraced for Congress to take the next step, so that student aid can be expanded and apply without restrictions to this type of skill based, earn and learn model,” one official said.