Our surging economy has brought with it abundant job opportunities. Tax cuts and deregulation have boosted job creation. Since President Donald Trump’s inauguration in January 2017, 5.4 million jobs have been created and more people are working in America than ever before. The unemployment rate has dropped to 3.6%, the lowest rate since 1969, and last year we saw the highest share of people entering our labor force from the sidelines since we started tracking in the early 1990s. Through the White House’s Pledge to America’s Workers, job creators around the nation have committed to nearly 10 million training, upskilling or reskilling opportunities for American students and workers.
Our thriving job market brings with it new challenges, however. Our economy has 7.4 million open jobs, and for 14 months in a row it has had more job openings than job seekers. As businesses look to fill these jobs, we have an obligation to look for new ways to empower America’s workforce with the in-demand skills that employers need.
The apprenticeship model of skills education works well in America and throughout Europe. Apprenticeships are an earn-and-learn opportunity where individuals receive salaries and acquire the skills relevant to their chosen career, without the burdens of student loans and related debt. Since January 2017, more than 500,000 people have entered apprenticeship programs registered with the Department of Labor or its state counterparts. The average starting salary for individuals who have completed apprenticeships is over $70,000. Apprenticeships offer a pathway to a family-sustaining wages and fulfilling careers.
Our nation needs to empower more industries and professions to embrace apprenticeship opportunities. That is why the Trump administration is proposing a second apprenticeship model: the Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship. The Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship program would stand alongside the Labor Department’s existing Registered Apprenticeships, which have found success in the building trades. This program would enable industries to come together through associations, consortia, nonprofits and other mechanisms to offer skills education to American students and workers.
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