By Evan Henerson


Such a low unemployment rate and so many jobs, yet so few qualified candidates to fill them.

So Donald Trump, who hosted the TV reality show “The Apprentice” for many years, is spending a significant part of this Workforce Training Week focusing on apprenticeships and training programs as a way of helping bridge the gap.

He’s in Waukesha, Wisconsin today with daughter Ivanka and his former primary foe, Governor Scott Walker, to visit Waukesha Technical College. Part of his message is that universities and private companies should team up to train and produce workers with the exact skills they will need to succeed in jobs across several industries including healthcare, information and technology, construction, agriculture and manufacturing.
The choice of places to kick off his apprenticeship tour is anything but accidental. Wisconsin was the first state to pass a law establishing apprenticeships, and it’s a state where apprenticeships are still flourishing.

Presumably if the president can find a way to get the universities and private companies to shell out, that will help offset the need for massive federal assistance. The last federal budget passed with about $90 million for apprenticeships and Trump’s proposed budget does not up that amount. In fact, Politico points out that Trump’s budget would cut the Labor Department’s funding for training and employment services by 36 percent, “including deep reductions in training for adults and dislocated workers.”

From the Politico article:

“It’s much the same at the Education Department, where Trump’s budget proposes a 15 percent cut in grants that help states pay for career and technical education. Along with $166 million in cuts, the Trump budget proposes a $20 million increase to pay for "the development, enhancement, implementation, or expansion of innovative [Career and Technical Education] programs" in science, technology, engineering and math — commonly known as STEM — programs.

“There is definitely a huge juxtaposition between the administration's statements on supporting workforce and skill development and what's included in their budget,” said Alisha Hyslop, director of public policy for the Association for Career and Technical Education.”

The Washington Post notes that, whether they are valuable workforce development tools or not, apprenticeships are not currently in great use in the United States. Of the 146 million jobs in the US, .35 percent, around 500,000, were filled by active apprentices in 2016. Completion is another barrier as less than half the people in apprenticeships make it all the way through. The Trumps and Labor Secretary Alex Acosta are characterizing apprenticeships as “underused’ and are advocating that a change in American attitudes toward training can improve the situation.

After the Wisconsin visit, Trump and Ivanka will spend Wednesday (his 71st birthday) hosting an apprenticeship roundtable in Washington with 15 CEOS. On Thursday, there will be yet another roundtable on the subject, this time with VP Mike Pence.

One last footnote on Trump’s Wisconsin visit. In addition to its Technical College, Waukesha also has a General Electric plant that, back in 2015, announced it would ultimately close and lay off about 350 workers. After Trump was elected, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) wrote to the president asking him to urge GE to keep those jobs in Wisconsin. According to Politico again, they never heard back and Trump did not schedule any time on the Waukesha stop for a GE visit.

"It's going to be disappointing for the 75 percent of the members on the floor who's voted for him that he's two miles away and won't stop by," Scott Schmidt, president of IAM Local 1377 told Politico. "I don't know why he would come to Waukesha to promote the training if there's no place to work."

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