Trump to call for a na­tion full of ap­pren­tices

South Florida Times - - BUSINESS -

BY JOSH BOAK AND KEN THOMAS As­so­ci­ated Press

PEWAUKEE, Wis. -- The man who par­layed a run on TV's “The Ap­pren­tice” into a win­ning pres­i­den­tial cam­paign said Tues­day the na­tion needs a stronger sys­tem of ap­pren­tice­ship to match work­ers with mil­lions of open jobs.

"I love the name ap­pren­tice," Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump de­clared. He said he wants ev­ery high school in Amer­ica to of­fer ap­pren­tice­ship op­por­tu­ni­ties and hands-on-learn­ing.

Joined in Wis­con­sin by daugh­ter Ivanka Trump and La­bor Sec­re­tary Alex Acosta, Trump de­scribed his push to get pri­vate com­pa­nies and uni­ver­si­ties to pair up and pay the cost of such ar­range­ments.

"It's called earn while you learn," Trump said at Wauke­sha County Tech­ni­cal Col­lege.

The pres­i­dent toured the tech­ni­cal col­lege, ac­com­pa­nied by Wis­con­sin Gov. Scott Walker, as his at­tor­ney gen­eral, Jeff Ses­sions, faced ques­tions be­fore the Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee on po­ten­tial Trump cam­paign ties to Rus­sia and the fir­ing of FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey.

The White House said Trump's push is aimed at train­ing work­ers with spe­cific skills for par­tic­u­lar jobs that em­ploy­ers say they can't fill at a time of his­tor­i­cally low un­em­ploy­ment. How­ever, the most re­cent bud­get for the fed­eral gov­ern­ment passed with about $90 mil­lion for ap­pren­tice­ships, and Trump so far isn't propos­ing to add more.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has said there's a need that can be met with a change in the Amer­i­can at­ti­tude to­ward vo­ca­tional ed­u­ca­tion and ap­pren­tice­ships. A Novem­ber 2016 re­port by for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama's Com­merce De­part­ment found that “ap­pren­tice­ships are not fully un­der­stood in the United States, es­pe­cially” by em­ploy­ers, who tend to use ap­pren­tices for a few, hard-to-fill po­si­tions" but not as widely as they could.

The short­ages for specif­i­cally trained work­ers cut across mul­ti­ple job sec­tors be­yond Trump's beloved con­struc­tion trades. There are short­ages in agri­cul­ture, man­u­fac­tur­ing, in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy and health care.

Par­tic­i­pants in some ap­pren­tice pro­grams get on-the-job train­ing while go­ing to school, some­times with com­pa­nies foot­ing the bill.

IBM, for ex­am­ple, par­tic­i­pates in a six-year pro­gram called P-TECH. Stu­dents in 60 schools across six states be­gin in high school, when they get a paid in­tern­ship, earn an as­so­ciate's de­gree and get first-in­line con­sid­er­a­tion for jobs from 250 par­tic­i­pat­ing em­ploy­ers.

It re­lies on funds out­side the ap­pren­tice­ship pro­gram - a chal­lenge in that the Trump bud­get plan would cut spend­ing over­all on job train­ing. The pro­gram uses $1.2 bil­lion in fed­eral fund­ing pro­vided un­der the Perkins Ca­reer and Tech­ni­cal Ed­u­ca­tion Act passed in 2006, said P-TECH co-founder Stan Li­tow.

“This re­ally demon­strates what you can do with ap­pren­tice­ships with ex­ist­ing dol­lars,” Li­tow said.

Sen. Tammy Bald­win, D-Wis., said Trump's “rhetoric doesn't match the real­ity” of bud­get cuts he's propos­ing that would re­duce fed­eral job train­ing fund­ing by 40 per­cent from $2.7 bil­lion to $1.6 bil­lion.

“If you're re­ally in­ter­ested in pro­mot­ing ap­pren­tice­ship, you have to in­vest in that skills train­ing,” said Mike Rosen, pres­i­dent of the Mil­wau­kee chap­ter of the Amer­i­can Fed­er­a­tion of Teach­ers union.

Ap­pren­tice­ships are few and far be­tween. Of the 146 mil­lion jobs in the United States, about 0.35 per­cent - or slightly more than a halfmil­lion - were filled by ac­tive ap­pren­tices in 2016. Fill­ing mil­lions more jobs through ap­pren­tice­ships would re­quire the gov­ern­ment to mas­sively ramp up its ef­forts.“Scal­ing is the big is­sue,” said Robert Ler­man, a fel­low at the Ur­ban In­sti­tute.

An­other com­pli­ca­tion: Only about half of ap­pren­tices fin­ish their multi-year pro­grams, Ler­man said. Fewer than 50,000 peo­ple - in­clud­ing 11,104 in the mil­i­tary - com­pleted their ap­pren­tice­ships in 2016, ac­cord­ing to La­bor De­part­ment.

The pres­i­dent was at­tend­ing a closed fundraiser for Walker later in the day.Wis­con­sin was a key part of his 2016 elec­tion tri­umph and Trump be­came the first Repub­li­can to carry the state in a pres­i­den­tial elec­tion since 1984.

Trump also met on an air­port tar­mac in Mil­wau­kee with four peo­ple he de­scribed as "vic­tims" of Pres­i­dent Barack Obama's health care law. Trump said the health care law was "one of the great­est catas­tro­phes that our coun­try has signed into law and the vic­tims are in­no­cent hard­work­ing Amer­i­cans." He sin­gled out Michael and Tammy Kush­man of Marinette County, Wis­con­sin, and Robert and Sarah Stoll of Kenosha, Wis­con­sin.

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