President Donald Trump signed an executive order establishing a new workforce initiative Thursday focused on promoting and expanding job training programs such as apprenticeships.
“This council will be made up of top officials across the government,” Trump said moments before signing it. “We’re also establishing an outside advisory board of industry leaders and experts, which we will announce in the coming weeks, very shortly. A lot of people want to be on that board very badly; I have some great people going on that board.”
The National Council for the American Worker will be tasked to develop a national strategy to equip workers in all stages of their career with the skills they need to thrive in the modern economy. Trump also announced a national challenge asking companies to expand apprenticeships, with 23 businesses already signing on.
Trump is hoping to get enough businesses to pledge their support to train and retrain 3.8 million students and workers for new jobs and fulfilling careers. He noted that the original goal was 500,000 but they already surpassed it even before the official start, expecting to be over 4 million soon.
“That’s an interesting word for me to be saying. Right? ‘The Apprentice,'” Trump said, alluding to the reality TV show in which he was featured. “I never actually put that together until just now. That was a good experience, I will tell you that. Isn’t that strange? Ivanka, I never associated, but here we are. Can’t get away from that word. That’s a great word. For on-the-job training and vocational education.”
The president instructed the Department of Labor (DOL) in an executive order last year to set up a task force to look into the issue. The task force includes members from business, labor, trade groups, educational institutions, and public officials who work together and submitted to the president recommendations May 10 on how to expand apprenticeships.
The skills gap issue reflects the fact that as the economic expansion prompted by the Trump tax cuts of 2017 proceeds, many companies are having trouble finding workers with skills required to fill the growing number of new jobs.
Trump’s tax cuts took effect in February 2018, but the skills-gap issue has been developing for years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), for example, found in a 2011 report that the national economy is projected to produce 1 million fewer technical workers than are needed over the next decade.
PNC Financial Services found in a report last year that the demand for STEM skills is going to explode over the next few years. The report also found that 38 percent of global manufacturers are having difficulty finding workers.