It’s been about a month since President Trump signed the Presidential Executive Order Expanding Apprenticeships in America, and we have waited patiently for more details to come out on some of the more vague points made throughout. However, it left many of us with unresolved questions such as what exactly the order was, what it means, and how it affects you.
What does the order say?
The mission of the Executive Order is to reform the process for creating apprenticeship programs throughout the country, and almost double the funding for ApprenticeshipUSA, a grant program that provides information and resources for both apprenticeship programs and potential apprentices. The purpose of the order acknowledges the rising costs of college tuition, and how it often fails to result in relevant jobs upon graduation. It then continues to describe the well-known “Skills Gap,” wherein many contractors are struggling to find enough employees that are already equipped with the skills necessary to obtain a job in the trades.
Economists coined the phrase “middle-skill” jobs to describe how apprenticeship programs can fill this need. Middle skills jobs require more specialized skill and training than a high school diploma, but a college degree may not be entirely necessary or even relevant. This is where apprenticeship programs come into play: they allow for individuals to learn in a classroom setting while obtaining real-world experience on the job.
Unfortunately, many contractors are hesitant or unwilling to create or register an apprenticeship program. In a meeting in Greensboro, North Carolina, industry leaders expressed that they are prepared to accept the cost of training and programming, but they are unwilling to succumb to the oversight that is required when applying to be a registered apprenticeship program through the Department of Labor. Project managers want the freedom to train their workers on what is relevant to them at the moment, or what they do on a day-to-day basis, and are concerned that federal standards will prevent them from keeping focus on their objectives.
Evaluation of Existing Programs
- Section 1. “…Federally funded education and workforce development programs that do not work must be improved or eliminated so that taxpayer dollars can be channeled to more effective uses.” Throughout the order, Trump calls for an evaluation of programs. Those that are deemed ineffective must either be reformed, or dismantled so that the funding can be put towards empirically beneficial programs.
- Section 10: “Improving the Effectiveness of Workforce Development Programs.” This piece dictates that heads of agencies must give evaluations on their current programming, as well as data proving their effectiveness to their students. They are also encouraged to make any recommendations for administrative or legislative reform that would help them prove. And finally, again, it would mention the recommendation to eliminate ineffective programs.
Section 4: Probably the most significant piece of the order, Section 4 addresses development of apprenticeship programs by third parties. The Secretary of Labor, Education, and Commerce will begin proposing regulations in accordance to:
- “Determine how qualified third parties may provide recognition to high-quality apprenticeship programs (industry-recognized apprenticeship programs)”
- “ Establish guidelines or requirements that qualified third parties should or must follow to ensure that apprenticeship programs they recognize meet quality standards”
- ” Provide that any industry-recognized apprenticeship program may be considered for expedited and streamlined registration under the registered apprenticeship program the Department of Labor administers”
- “Retain the existing processes for registering apprenticeship programs for employers who continue using this system”
- “Establish review processes, consistent with applicable law, for considering whether to:
(A) deny the expedited and streamlined registration under the Department of Labor’s registered apprenticeship program in any sector in which Department of Labor registered apprenticeship programs are already effective and substantially widespread; and
(B) terminate the registration of an industry-recognized apprenticeship program recognized by a qualified third party, as appropriate.”
Many see this section as an opportunity to apply for federal apprenticeship, making it easier for owners to have a program that will benefit their workers and yield results.
Section 8: This section primarily deals with the formation of a task force. The purpose of this task force is to evaluate the existing programs, as well as make suggestions about educational structure and curriculum with less influence from the Department of Labor. The composition of this task force is as follows:
- The Secretary of Labor will be the head of the task force [currently R. Alexander Acosta]
- The Secretary of Education [currently Betsy DeVos] and the Secretary of Commerce [currently Wilbur Ross] will be the vice-chairs of the task force
- The membership will consist of no more than twenty members, picked by the Secretary of Labor “who work for or represent the perspectives of American companies, trade or industry groups, educational institutions, and labor unions.”
This word is scattered throughout the document, without much elaboration. Sections 5-7 speak of promoting apprenticeship at high schools, post-secondary institutions, and other places consistent with applicable law. It speaks of expanding participation in apprenticeships, but with no details on how that would take place.
How does this affect us?
The latest update from Nationals stated:
On June 27, IEC National VP of Government Affairs Jason Todd met with Trump administration officials about registered apprenticeship.
Todd provided staff with background on IEC’s long-standing registered apprenticeship program and its continued participation with ApprenticeshipUSA and as the only merit shop representative on the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Advisory Committee on Apprenticeship. He expressed that the administration could significantly increase the number of registered apprentices in the electrical contracting industry through an expanded ratio of apprentices to journeyman on prevailing wage projects.
IEC will continue to work with the White House and the DOL on apprenticeship and will provide additional guidance as regulations stemming from the EO is released.
Since IEC has had such a long-standing relationship with the Department of Labor, it is doubtful that the order will have a direct influence on how IEC operates. However, this is potentially a great opportunity for other organizations to create and implement apprenticeship programs around the country. IEC is honored to work with the White House and offer any kind of insight and assistance to help promote apprenticeship in America.
How can I get involved?
Get on the Task Force
The Secretary of Labor will be producing a process for submitting and accepting nominations for the Task Force. Updates on how to register will be posted here.
Submit suggestions to the Task Force
Once the Task Force is created, there will be an announcement made on how to submit suggestions, ask questions, and get information on what the Task Force is currently doing. Updates will be provided here.
What do you think?
What do you think of the Executive Order? Is this the best direction for apprenticeship as an institution? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments!