Workforce Training is on the White House Agenda — But There’s Some Skepticism

Last week, the White House was all about infrastructure (although that other big thing that happened grabbed most of the attention).

This week, the White House is all about workforce development. President Trump is scheduled to travel to a technical college in Wisconsin on Tuesday to promote the effort, while first daughter/adviser Ivanka Trump will lead a roundtable discussion with chief executives on Wednesday. The president also is expected to give a big policy speech on job training that day, and father and daughter will gather for a roundtable discussion with governors on Thursday.

Ivanka Trump is really taking the lead on the whole thing. Here she is on Monday morning on Fox and Friends, talking up the plan:

Ivanka Trump’s appearance quickly made headlines, although not for any of the workforce training stuff. But Trump did spend a good amount of time talking about it, noting that the goal is to “really highlight that there is a viable path other than a four-year college experience.”

“Apprenticeships really, that’s the model,” she said. “It’s worked throughout the world, and it’s something we’ve de-emphasized here, in favor of four-year traditional college. But they don’t have to be mutually exclusive.”

Much of the vocational, skills-based training promoted by the White House will be to prepare workers for STEM jobs, including training women and minority workers, Trump said. She added that while women make up 47 percent of the workforce, they only occupy 23 percent of STEM-related occupations.

The White House also wants to promote training efforts for workers whose jobs have been displaced, Trump said.

“Many people are also working jobs that are part-time, and it’s an enormous problem in this country, the number of part-time workers who are working two and three jobs that collectively, they’re making less than when they worked one job that’s been replaced,” Trump said. “And they don’t have access to leave, to vacation, to holidays, to traditional benefits. So, that’s another problem.”

A lot of what Trump mentions sounds pretty darn good. Frankly, some of it sounds similar to workforce training ideas put forth by the Obama administration. For example, the Labor Department distributed $90 million in grants last year for apprenticeship expansion (of the 8,000 or so active apprenticeship programs registered with the Labor Department, about 20 percent are in manufacturing).

But the question is: How exactly does the Trump administration plan to actually achieve all of this workforce development work?

While President Trump’s proposed budget included a $1 million increase for apprenticeship grants, it also aims to significantly cut a handful of other programs falling under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. Dislocated worker employment and training activities would be cut by over $500 million, for example.

Other successful job training programs also would lose funding under Trump’s budget, including the Manufacturing Extension Partnership and Economic Development Administration. Manufacturing USA would see a 70 percent drop in its funding.

All told, Trump’s budget would cut Labor Department funding for training and employment services by 36 percent, while the Education Department would see a 15 percent cut to its career and technical education grant program.

Given proposed cuts like these, there’s already pushback to Trump’s workforce training agenda.

Chris Lu, who served as deputy Labor secretary in the Obama administration, writes in TIME that under the Trump budget, an estimated 34,000 Wisconsin residents would lose access to services that help them finding work — including in advanced manufacturing.

“When Donald Trump announced his candidacy for President in June 2015, he famously pledged to be ‘the greatest jobs president God has ever created.’ He might be tempted to repeat that pledge when he visits Waukesha County this week,” Lu writes. “But job creation means nothing without job training programs.”

It remains to be seen whether President Trump will unveil more concrete workforce training plans during the week (he didn’t share anything all that new on infrastructure last week, after all). There’s talk that House leadership will introduce bipartisan legislation next week to reauthorize the Perkins Act, which would provide $1 billion in federal support for career and technical education programs.

In the meantime, Trump and his team would be wise to reconsider many of the cuts to existing workforce training programs in the proposed budget. We also hope that Congress — which has the final say — will also take another look.


Reposted from AAM.