Trump administration puts focus on apprentices

By Tracie Lauriello

WASHINGTON — Donald Trump put his television ambitions behind him when he ran for president, but he’s resurrecting the premise of his reality show by trying to make apprentices out of displaced and underemployed workers around the country.

A new focus on apprenticeship is part of a workforce development plan the White House expects to roll out in a series of events next week including a policy speech, a visit to a community college in Wisconsin, a meeting of governors and a roundtable with 15 top business leaders.

“This is an initiative that has our absolute highest level of attention and focus,” said Reed S. Cordish, Mr. Trump’s adviser on intergovernmental and technology initiatives.

Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta and Ivanka Trump, first daughter and key aide, said the administration is focused on training a workforce for ever changing jobs in manufacturing, technology, health care and other fields.

Mr. Trump’s budget, though, appears to make job training less of a priority. It includes deep cuts to job training initiatives. An analysis by the progressive Center for Budget and Policy Priorities shows that the budget proposal would cut $1.1 billion from the current $2.7 billion in federal funding states receive to fund job training grants.

That includes a 13.5 percent cut to the National Apprenticeship Initiative, a $95 million program that funds exactly the kind of job training at the core of next week’s White House push.

The White House says it doesn’t need to spend more to do better.

“One thing I can tell you is that the problem is not money,” said one top aide who responded to questions on the condition he not be named. “The president put forward a very fiscally responsible and prudent budget.”

He said the federal government has 31 programs across 14 agencies and not all of them are effective.

“You have all these disparate programs that lack effectiveness and lack accountability,” he said.

Many of those programs serve very specific groups of people — for example, displaced workers who are close to retirement age.

“These programs are for very small and defined populations and they exist separately for good reason,” said David Socolow, director of the Center for Law and Social Policy. And they need more federal support, not less.

“The reason we have a publicly funded structure for workforce development is because employers don’t contribute enough toward training the workforce. They’re afraid if they train someone they’ll up and leave them, and that investment will go walking out the door,” he said. “It has become the role of the federal government to … have a baseline infrastructure to train the workforce, and especially focus on individuals with barriers to employment that need extra help.”

Ms. Trump said the plan her father is advocating will help women and minorities enter the workforce with higher paying jobs.

But don’t expect the programs to be advertised with the glitz and glamour associated with “The Apprentice” television program.

“While we appreciate the connection, that will not — other than maybe as a passing joke — be tied in,” a top aide said.

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