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June 25 2019

Trump Administration Reworks Apprenticeships to Include White-Collar Jobs Too

by Patrice Lee Onwuka

Apprenticeships are gaining in popularity these days -- and not just because Kim Kardashian West is studying to become a lawyer.

As Americans increasingly embrace work-training programs in an economy with millions of unfilled jobs that require skills and training, apprenticeships are a way for young people, displaced workers, and the formerly incarcerated to gain access to new opportunities.

The Trump Administration has made expanding apprenticeships the cornerstone of its work initiative - aiming to create 1 million apprenticeships.

Two years ago, President Trump signed an executive order to allow companies, trade associations, and unions to develop their own apprenticeship-program guidelines. 

Yesterday, the Trump Administration followed up on this effort with a new proposal that moves control over some newly-created apprenticeships out of Washington and down to the state and local level among the companies and organizations that are best suited to create and oversee them.

The proposal would create industry-recognized apprenticeship programs with industry-relevant standards and curricula set by trade associations, educational institutions, nonprofits, or labor unions.

A problem this industry-specific approach could resolve is that apprenticeships are concentrated (more than three-quarters of existing federally administered apprenticeships) in construction, manufacturing, or part of military training. Many young people or unemployed and discouraged workers may not be attracted to blue-collar jobs.

However, under this new model programs could be created for white-collar jobs too such as law (like Kim K), bank branch managers, pharmacy technician, or software developers.

According to projections from the Labor Department, over the next decade, there could be 9,063 industry-recognized apprentice programs. We can only imagine how many people would be served. For context, last fiscal year, there were over half a million apprentices (585,000) in over 23,000 programs nationwide.

Here are three reasons apprenticeships are a good idea:

  1. Apprenticeships deliver good-paying jobs - Over 90 percent of apprentices snag work after completing their programs, with a starting pay of more than $60,000 annually. 

  2. Apprentices aren’t on the hook for large student debt - Most people in apprenticeships conclude their programs without any debt. Compare that to the average college graduate who left campus with $30,000 in debt. 

  3. Apprentices can still earn college credits and degrees 

Now is the time to break the cultural mindset that a college degree is the only path to success. It’s one (expensive) path, but not the only path.

Nor does a degree guarantee gainful employment or the income to repay how that degree was financed. Policymakers are floating debt forgiveness of the $1.5 trillion in student loan debt floating around. That's a bandaid solution when students continue to incur debt they can't repay. Why not push alternatives to college that will deliver good-paying jobs upon program completion?

The Trump Administration deserves credit for doing just this. We need new ways to make opportunity and economic mobility a reality for all Americans.





Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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