President Trump Orders Review of Apprenticeship Programs

Author: Marta Moakley, XpertHR Legal Editor

June 16, 2017

President Donald J. Trump has signed an Executive Order entitled "Expanding Apprenticeships in America" that calls for an "empirically rigorous evaluation" of current apprenticeship and workforce development programs. The Order echoes the Secretary of Labor's comments regarding reviews of apprenticeship regulations during the first full Cabinet meeting held on June 12. Employers would have greater discretion in designing these job training programs under the new directives.

The Order asserts that "federally funded education and workforce development programs are not effectively serving American workers." To remedy the situation, the Order prioritizes expanding apprenticeships and reforming ineffective education and workforce development programs so that workers will be able to obtain relevant skills and high-paying jobs.

Apprenticeships are arrangements that include a paid-work component and an educational or instructional component, in which an individual obtains workplace-relevant knowledge and skills. The President and his daughter, Ivanka Trump, who became familiar to national audiences through the success of "The Apprentice" television program, both view private sector apprenticeships as a key way to fill the approximately six million open positions in the US.

The Order seeks to:

  • Establish industry-recognized apprenticeships;
  • Address funding to promote apprenticeships;
  • Expand access to apprenticeships;
  • Promote apprenticeship programs at colleges and universities; and
  • Establish a Task Force on apprenticeship expansion, to be chaired by the Secretary of Labor, to provide a report to the President regarding effective strategies.

The Order directs the Secretary of Labor (in consultation with the Secretaries of Education and Commerce), to consider proposing new regulations that promote the development of apprenticeship programs by third parties. These parties may include:

  • Trade and industry groups;
  • Companies;
  • Non-profit organizations;
  • Unions; and
  • Joint-labor management organizations.

The Order also calls for a report from the head of each agency regarding the effectiveness of workforce development programs. After conducting a rigorous review of the programs, the resulting information would be used in determining the President's 2019 budget.

The Department of Labor's 2018 proposed budget invests $89.9 million in apprenticeship programs, an amount comparable to that allocated in previous budgets. Therefore, any expansion of apprenticeships would occur with limited federal funds, along with potentially more limited oversight.