Our unemployment rate is currently at 4.3%, the lowest its been since 2001. But there are still close to 7 million unemployed Americans looking for work, and roughly 95% of employers say they are having a hard time finding skilled workers.
The problem with unemployment in America isn’t a lack of job openings, but a lack of American workers with required skills.
“Americans want to work. American companies want to hire. The issue is a mismatch between available jobs and prospective employee jobs skills,” explains Labor Secretary Alex Acosta.
This week has been dubbed “workforce development week.”
On Wednesday, President Trump delivered a major policy speech about a new apprenticeship plan that aims to fill up to 6 million jobs. “There are millions of good jobs that lead to great careers, jobs that do not require a 4 year degree or the massive debt that often comes with those 4 year degrees and even 2 year degrees,” said Trump.
On Thursday, eight state governors will visit the White House for a roundtable discussion led by Ivanka Trump, who has taken a central role in developing the apprenticeship plan. “Her leadership on this issue has been invaluable,” said Acosta.
The apprenticeship initiative aims to form “private-foster” partnerships between employers and educational facilities like community colleges so that American workers can get the training they need without falling into massive debt.
Fields in need of workers include information technology, health care, legal, law enforcement, construction, and manufacturing.
“This is going to be a great thing for expanding opportunities, for example, to women and STEM,” said Acosta. “We’re looking to push apprenticeships across the board – all people, all industries. This is an opportunity for everyone.”
It’s clear that President Trump wants to get Americans back to work, but it’s unclear how he’s going to pay for it and if the apprenticeship idea will work.
Trump’s budget proposal includes $90 million for apprenticeships, the same amount allocated by Obama last year.
There were only 450,000 apprentices in 2016. As CEO David Black of Degreed (an education tech firm) points out, you would have to “double or quadruple before apprenticeships become a lever that’s really scalable in helping us close the skills gap.”
“We’re encouraged that the momentum on apprenticeships continues,” said Eric Seleznow, who worked in the Labor Department during the Obama Administration. “Apprenticeship is great, but it’s not the only tool in the toolbox.”