Trump to sign executive order on apprenticeships

President Trump will sign an executive order Thursday designed to expand apprenticeships to train people for millions of unfilled jobs. 

The measure directs the Labor Department to draft new rules allowing companies, industry groups and unions to create and certify their own programs, which would then be approved by the department. 

An administration official said the “streamlined” structure would foster more “flexible” programs that fit the needs of businesses. The White House estimates there are 6 million vacant jobs that companies cannot fill due to a lack of skilled workers. 

{mosads}Trump will sign the measure during a ceremony in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. The president was set to sign the directive on Wednesday after a speech at the Labor Department, but the event was scrapped due to the shooting at a congressional baseball practice. 

The order doubles funding for apprenticeship grants to $200 million by pulling money allotted for existing job-training programs. 

The official said new Labor Department grants could be used to grow apprenticeship programs in community colleges and high schools and expand them to industries beyond the trades, such as agriculture and engineering. 

It calls on the federal government to review 43 existing workforce development programs spanning 13 agencies to make them “more accountable and effective,” the official said. As a result of that process, some programs may be consolidated or eliminated.

The Trump administration would also form a task force of representatives from industry groups, unions and corporations that would recommend other ways the government could help expand apprenticeships. And it calls on Congress to allow student loans to apply to technical college education or on the job training. 

The White House has sought to make workforce development the focus of its message this week. 

Trump on Tuesday traveled to Wisconsin with his daughter Ivanka, who is spearheading the effort, to tour Waukesha County Technical College and hold a roundtable on what Trump called “earn while you learn” apprenticeships and training programs. 

But that push has been overshadowed by developments in the Russia probe, including the revelation Trump is being investigated for possible obstruction of justice, as well as Wednesday’s shooting at a GOP congressional baseball practice.

Critics have said Trump isn’t putting his money where his mouth is, pointing out his budget calls for deep cuts to the Labor Department that includes a $168 million cut in career and technical education grants to states. 

The new apprenticeship approval structure could also come under criticism for reducing the level of oversight and input the Labor Department has in apprenticeship programs.  

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