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White House order addresses workforce initiatives

June 29, 2017

Earlier this month, the White House released an executive order to expand apprenticeship programs and to study other federal workforce initiatives. The administration will attempt to reduce regulations for “effective” efforts while reducing funding for other programs. The Washington Post reports that the administration seeks to increase apprenticeship funding to $200 million through reallocation of workforce spending.

The executive order emphasizes the disconnect between higher education costs and employment, stating: “Far too many individuals today find themselves with crushing student debt and no direct connection to jobs… Federal programs must do a better job matching unemployed American workers with open jobs.”

To expand apprenticeships, the order cites specific actions for the secretary of labor, including the following:

  • Propose regulations to encourage apprenticeship programs by non-federal entities;
  • Promote apprenticeships, with an emphasis on expanding participation among students in high school and at institutions of higher education;
  • Establish a Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion to include the secretaries of commerce and education as well as non-federal members; and,
  • Develop a commendation process to recognize entities supporting apprenticeships.

Federal agencies with training programs are directed to order an independent and “empirically rigorous” evaluation (noting a preference for randomized, controlled trials), unless one has been completed on the program recently. The study results are to be included with each agency’s FY 2019 budget request to the White House Office of Management and Budget.

While not specifically stated in the order, the implication is that poorly performing programs will have their funding redirected toward apprenticeships and, possibly, other better-scoring initiatives.

A report completed in late 2016 by the Economic and Statistics Administration found that 91 percent of apprentices find employment after completing their program and have an average starting wage above $60,000. Results for the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and its predecessor have been more mixed, with the results of the most recent labor-funded study indicating modest employment benefits for “intensive” services but limited outcomes for training. 

white house, workforce