The Administration has announced a new job training and apprenticeship program focused on many hard to fill positions in manufacturing. The President signed an order to create a Council for the American Worker instructing the secretaries of commerce and labor to coordinate existing federal programs and focus on new apprenticeship programs for job seekers without college degrees and older workers. Labor Secretary, R. Alexander Acosta noted prior to the announcement that in June 2017 the administration had allocated $150 million in funding to strengthen apprenticeship programs.
Officials from various job development interested groups including unions, corporations, and trade association officials signed a ‘Pledge to America’s Workers’ committing to the creation of more career opportunities. Many of the leaders had made previous commitments, though Fed Express announced a new pledge of 512,000 workforce development slots with tuition assistance provided.
While, ‘dual careers’ have been a staple part of German and European education programs in the U.S. the ‘college for all’ mantra has taken its effect discouraging apprentice program candidates. However, many European firms like Zurich Insurance have applied their experience with apprenticeship programs to their U.S. subsidiaries to fill positions and have shared their experience with U.S. based firms like Accenture and Walgreens. Apprenticeships are 4.0% of the workforce in Germany while in the U.S. the total is about 500,000 in skilled trades like plumbing, electrical or metal work, just a small fraction of the U.S. workforce.
Source: The Labor Department, The Wall Street Journal – 2016
American employers are struggling with filling many positions in manufacturing that require special skills but not at the level of a college degree. We expect that as more co-automation jobs are created apprenticeship programs will become the norm to accelerate the number of qualified workers and retrain those workers who lost jobs from automation.
We are pleased to see the GOP Administration move ahead with executing on its pledge to increase the number of apprenticeship training programs and enlist all interested stakeholders in the process. However, this Administration has also announced budget cuts of 40 % to a Department of Labor Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, so making the program work and develop momentum seems challenging given the mixed signals. We see apprenticeship programs as crucial to expending jobs opportunities for the working class when they are combined with good salaries, benefits and continued training. Education is a bedrock institution to build a thriving society for all not just the wealthy.