After focusing on workforce development in several events during the week, on June 15, President Trump signed an Executive Order titled “Expanding Apprenticeships in America.” According to the National Archives, “Executive orders are official documents, numbered consecutively, through which the President of the United States manages the operations of the Federal Government.” They are not new laws – but rather instructions for federal agencies as to how to work within already established laws and use their resources.

View the original article: President Signs Executive Order Promoting Apprenticeships

The goals of this particular Executive Order are to “provide more affordable pathways to secure, high paying jobs by promoting apprenticeships and effective workforce development programs, while easing the regulatory burden on such programs and reducing or eliminating taxpayer support for ineffective workforce development programs.” It includes a number of directives:

  • Establishing Industry-Recognized Apprenticeships – Directs the Secretary of Labor to consider proposing regulations to promote the development of apprenticeships by third-parties, including trade and industry groups, companies, non-profit organizations, unions and joint labor-management organizations. These programs could be considered for expedited and streamlined recognition under the Registered Apprenticeship program.
  • Funding to Promote Apprenticeships – Directs the Secretary of Labor to use already available funds to promote apprenticeships, with references to expanding apprenticeship sectors, expanding youth apprenticeships, and expanding access for students enrolled in educational institutions. Earlier reports this week indicated funding might be redirected from the H-1B visa program.
  • Expanding Access to Apprenticeships – Directs the Secretaries of Labor, Education, Commerce and Defense, and the Attorney General, to promote apprenticeships to specific populations and business leaders.
  • Promoting Apprenticeship Programs at Colleges and Universities – Directs the Secretary of Education to support two- and four-year postsecondary educational institutions in their efforts to incorporate apprenticeships into their programs.
  • Establishment of the Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion – Directs the Department of Labor to establish a task force to “identify strategies and proposals to promote apprenticeships, especially in sectors where apprenticeship programs are insufficient.”
  • Excellence in Apprenticeships – Directs the Secretary of Labor to solicit examples of commendable apprenticeship efforts in order to recognize those programs.
  • Improving the Effectiveness of Workforce Development Programs – Directs each federal agency to identify programs under its jurisdiction that promote “skills development and workforce readiness” and submit the list, as well as evaluations of such programs and recommendations for improvements or elimination to OMB with the agencies FY 19 budget request. We expect that Perkins would be included on this list.

Earlier in the week at an event in Wisconsin, the President also expressed support for strengthening apprenticeship and work-based learning opportunities in high schools, however there appears to be little in the executive order that would actually impact high school students, and it is unclear at this point what specific activities would be undertaken generally by the Department of Education to strengthen links between apprenticeships and educational institutions. We will provide additional information as more details are released.

While a greater awareness around the tremendous value workforce development programs, including apprenticeships, bring to students, employers and the American economy, is a positive step, the Trump administration’s “workforce development week” is undercut and overshadowed by the massive cuts the president proposes in his FY18 budget to existing, successful workforce development programs, including Perkins. The President proposed a 15% cut to Perkins, and a 40% cut to Department of Labor WIOA programs in that budget, making it difficult for states and communities to provide the training necessary to address the skills gap this Executive Order is targeting.