In Focus

Jun 19, 2017  |  PERMALINK »

Trump Order Weakens Apprenticeship System, Continues to Slash Funding for Workforce Training

On June 15, 2017, President Trump signed an Executive Order (EO) meant to “expand apprenticeships in America.” Under  the current system, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and state apprenticeship agencies register all apprenticeship programs. However this EO proposes to decentralize the registration of apprenticeships to enable third parties—including a variety of corporate, nonprofit, trade groups, or other entities—to independently register or recognize apprenticeships. The implementation of this EO is likely to expand apprenticeship programs while potentially damaging the integrity and reputation of the current system and diminishing the value of this important earn-while-you-learn program to workers seeking to gain greater skills and improve their economic opportunities.

The current federal-state apprenticeship system in the United States was established through the National Apprenticeship Act of 1937. The primary purpose of the Act was to “promote the furtherance of labor standards necessary to safeguard the welfare of apprentices.” DOL regulations set the framework for registered apprenticeships and require equal employment opportunity standards. President Trump’s EO does not include any guarantee that the new “industry-recognized” apprenticeships will uphold the current job quality and equal opportunity standards for the program. These standards include delineating the type and structure of the training, form of supervision, terms of employment, and health and safety requirements. The EO also does not mention any requirements—as currently codified—that apprentices receive wage increases as they achieve milestones, such as the development of skills and competencies or time spent in on-the-job training. Furthermore, the EO does not specify that graduates of this new program will receive a nationally recognized credential that is portable among employers within an industry, a hallmark of the current Registered Apprenticeship system.

In addition, the EO fails to require any equal opportunity, affirmative action, or racial/gender fair hiring practices in the new “industry-recognized apprenticeships.” These Equal Employment Opportunity requirements in the current system for registered apprenticeships ensure that underrepresented groups can access and benefit from these critical job-training opportunities. In the absence of strong quality assurance design and monitoring,  these new apprenticeships would allow federal funding to promote low-value training programs that are allowed to discriminate, provide few job protections, and offer little opportunity to advance from poverty-level wages.

Notably, the EO also directs federal agencies to make recommendations for eliminating workforce training under consideration in next year’s budget. Just as the proposed alternative to registered apprenticeship would weaken a proven workforce development strategy that enjoys bipartisan support, the Trump Administration continues to attack other key federal workforce development and job training investments. The president’s budget for Fiscal Year 2018 proposed cuts of almost 40 percent from job training programs provided through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA); proposed to reduce adult education by 16 percent ($96 million), even though two-thirds of adults with lower literacy and numeracy skills are already employed but face severe challenges in moving up at work due to their skill levels; and called for a 15 percent ($168 million) cut to Perkins career and technical education.

While the EO pays lip service to expanding access to and participation in apprenticeships among youth and students in secondary and postsecondary institutions, the administration’s budget would undermine these goals. The president’s budget proposes some of its deepest cuts for a program that provides crucial opportunities for youth to earn while they learn: the 20 percent dedicated WIOA Title I youth formula funding for work-based learning, which can include pre-apprenticeships and apprenticeships. Furthermore, WIOA’s provisions for subsidized transitional jobs for individuals with barriers to employment—and its enhanced reimbursement of up to 75 percent of wages for on-the-job training—offer valuable incentives for employers to participate in earn-and-learn activities, including pre-apprenticeships. These policies also encourage relationships between employers and the public workforce development system, leading to job training programs that are informed by industry needs and better prepare youth and adults with the right competencies for job opportunities.

The EO also promotes the development of apprenticeship programs at colleges and universities. By decentralizing the registration of apprenticeships, the Trump Administration would create a system for these new programs that resembles the accreditation system used in postsecondary education, where the Department of Education approves accreditors, who then in turn approve specific programs and institutions. This system, which both political parties agree is badly in need of reform, has allowed fraud to flourish. As of October 2016, the Obama Administration had approved 16,000 borrower “defense to repayment claims” (made by former students who reported being defrauded by colleges), and 13,000 “closed school claims” (for students who attended institutions that abruptly closed), for a cost to the taxpayer of $350 million. This is in addition to countless settlements and judgments that states attorneys general have received from schools that were accredited under the current model, yet that had made false claims about their programs’ performance to prospective students and committed other crimes.

Creating a mirror image of this accreditation system for registering “industry-recognized” apprenticeship could lead to similar waste, fraud, and abuse, allowing for the creation of sub-optimal education and training experiences that disproportionately draw in low-income students and students of color. This again raises significant questions and concerns that the new registration process suggested in the EO will weaken existing job quality and equal employment opportunity rules—and create a two-tiered system that will further undermine the current Registered Apprenticeship system.

Our workforce training system already struggles with having too few resources to meet the existing demand. It is possible to have both well-funded job training programs and quality assurance. Unfortunately, through its FY18 budget proposal and this new EO, the Trump Administration has yet to provide American workers with either.


Jun 15, 2017  |  PERMALINK »

Celebrating DACA and Plyler: Securing our Nation’s Future through the Success of Immigrant Youth

By Wendy CervantesDuy Pham, and Wayne Taliaferro

Today marks the 35th anniversary of the landmark Plyler v. Doe decision as well as the 5th anniversary of the introduction of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, both of which have helped advance civil rights in our public education system and promote economic progress. As a result, our country has benefitted from the numerous contributions of immigrant youth—including teachers, chefs, engineers, entrepreneurs, and community organizers—who have been able to pursue an education and give back to the country they love and call home.

In 1982, the Supreme Court’s Plyler ruling established that all children, regardless of immigration status, have a constitutional right to a free public education and found that denying undocumented children a basic education would create a “permanent underclass” and “foreclose any realistic possibility that they will contribute in even the smallest way to the progress of the nation.” The ruling, however, did not extend to postsecondary education, leaving thousands of undocumented youth—commonly referred to as “Dreamers”—with few options to continue their education beyond high school, including the challenge of lacking the documentation to work legally or stay in the country without fear of deportation.

Five years ago today, the introduction of DACA completely changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Dreamers. The program was a response by the Obama Administration to the failure of Congress to pass legislation that would address the tenuous position of these young people as well as the incredible organizing efforts of Dreamers themselves. DACA provides those eligible with a reprieve from deportation and a work permit for a renewable period of two years. Among other qualifications, applicants must have been under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012, entered the country before reaching their 16th birthday, and currently be enrolled in school or another qualifying education program, or have graduated from high school or obtained a general education certificate. Since the program’s inception, more than 780,000 young people have been approved for DACA, and a significant share are current students in our nation’s secondary and postsecondary institutions and are contributing members of our economy. Through DACA, they have stepped forward in good faith to provide information on their status, allowing them to fully live their lives and pursue their goals.

Yet, even as we celebrate the many success stories that were made possible by these inclusive policies, it is important to remember that undocumented youth and their families face dire threats under the Trump Administration, including a series of immigration executive orders that undermine the safety, economic security, and wellbeing of immigrant children, families, and communities. Under new guidelines on immigration enforcement, both citizen and noncitizen children and youth in mixed-status families are now at much greater risk of being separated from a parent or other loved ones due to deportation. Although the Trump Administration has claimed DACA recipients are not affected by the new guidelines and has not made any formal decisions regarding the continuation of the DACA program, at least two DACA recipients, Daniel Ramirez and Daniela Vargas, were detained and placed into removal proceedings, and at least one Dreamer, Juan Manuel Montes-Bojorquez, was deported and is currently suing the federal government. A groundswell of advocacy efforts at the local and national level helped secure Daniela’s release and helped grant Daniel bond; yet, DACA recipients are experiencing high levels of anxiety regarding the future status of their protections and are now living in constant fear that their parents and other family members may be deported.

In response to the attacks on immigrant youth and their families, many postsecondary institutions and associations have pledged support to DACA students. For example, the American Council on Education released an issue brief to help institutions understand how they can support DACA students in this time of transition and uncertainty. A number of campuses have also taken even bolder steps such as increasing financial assistance and limiting cooperation with immigration authorities on campus grounds. Furthermore, our partners at Achieving the Dream have put together tools to help postsecondary institutions respond to shifts in immigration or DACA policy in their local communities. At the K-12 level, several school districts have adopted “safe zone” resolutions that affirm their commitment to their immigrant students by upholding their rights under Plyler, promoting welcoming environments, and keeping their schools safe from immigration enforcement actions.

Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle are also stepping up to defend immigrant youth, with various bills already introduced and others under consideration that would either provide a temporary fix for those at risk of losing DACA or provide a long-term solution for undocumented youth. In fact, there has consistently been bipartisan support for federal legislation that provides a pathway to citizenship to immigrants who entered the U.S. as children since the first introduction of the Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act in 2001. In January, Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Representatives Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) and Mike Coffman (R-CO) reintroduced the Bar Removal of Immigrants who Dream and Grow our Economy (BRIDGE) Act, a bill that would grant a three-year provisional protected status to current DACA beneficiaries and allow additional youth to apply. The Recognizing America’s Children (RAC) Act was also introduced by a group of Republican House Members, which would offer a pathway to citizenship for DACA beneficiaries and other undocumented youth who meet the bill’s education, military, or employment requirements.

DACA beneficiaries are a small share of the total number of immigrants in the United States, but they add immensely to the diversity that fuels our global competitiveness and shapes our economic future. This diversity is already evident among our nation’s young people as the majority of those under 18 will soon be people of color. In fact, a report from the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education  finds that the number of White public school graduates is expected to decline 14 percent by 2030, while being counterbalanced by growth in the number of non-White public school graduates. Thus, postsecondary institutions and their policies need to be more responsive to communities of color and nontraditional students, who are now the majority of postsecondary students.

Undocumented youth have historically faced unique barriers to pursuing a postsecondary education, including limited access to financial aid and state policies that restrict their access to in-state tuition or bar them from enrolling in public institutions altogether.  While several states have adopted tuition equity policies to provide in-state tuition rates—and sometimes state-based financial assistance—to undocumented students, the DACA program helped eliminate many of the barriers that previously made beneficiaries who lacked formal legal status ineligible for in-state tuition and certain programs.

DACA beneficiaries and other undocumented youth also contribute to our nation’s economy and play a critical role in lifting their families out of poverty. Most live in mixed-status families, and an estimated 34 percent of immediately eligible DACA recipients live in families with annual incomes below the federal poverty line. Undocumented youth often help their parents make ends meet, and research shows that DACA significantly improves economic outcomes for beneficiaries and allows them to better financially support their family members—the benefits of which are felt throughout the entire economy. The remarkable success of the DACA program is an example of how an inclusive educational system and economy that taps the full potential of all people, including immigrant communities, can help meet the demands of our dynamic workforce.

As we remember the critical role that the Plyler decision and the DACA program have had on advancing education equity, CLASP commends the ongoing efforts to safeguard immigrant youth and is committed to working with our partners to fight back against harmful immigration policy proposals that undermine the safety and vitality of immigrant students and their families. We support forward-thinking, inclusive policies that promote the success of all our young people and secure our nation’s future.

Please visit the #IamDACA website to read stories of DACA youth


Jun 5, 2017  |  PERMALINK »

Go-Throughs to Get Through: New report and infographics foreground the mental health experiences of young adults living in poverty

Young adults living in poverty face high exposure to “go throughs”: lived experiences of structural disadvantage and trauma with lasting implications for educational, economic, and other life outcomes. They frequently “get through” these challenges without formal mental health supports, relying on community-based programs and peer networks to cope with their experiences.

“Everybody Got Their Go Throughs”: Young Adults on the Frontlines of Mental Health summarizes findings from focus groups and analysis of data from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The accompanying infographics visually represent young adults’ understanding of mental health and provide an overview of the national data included in the report.

The report’s major findings are a call to action, underlining the importance of an assets-based approach to mental health supports for youth and young adults. Such an approach recognizes and validates strengths, resilience, and young adults’ drive to fully achieve their education, employment, and life goals.

In the context of the current federal health care fight, “Everybody Got Their Go Throughs” highlights the racial and economic justice implications of the Medicaid expansion and full implementation of the mental health parity and prevention provisions of the Affordable Care Act for low-income young adults. Beyond the current political moment, the report also outlines a set of principles for framing mental health policy and practice.

Read the Report

Go-Throughs to Get Through: Mental Health Defined Infographic

Go-Throughs to Get Through: Low-income Young Adults and Mental Health Infographic 

site by Trilogy Interactive