President Donald Trump said America’s teenagers should have broad access to apprenticeships to prepare them for jobs.
“We want a future where every high school in America offers apprenticeship” options, Trump told participants in a vocational program at a community college in Wisconsin on Tuesday.
Trump will issue a directive Wednesday intended to boost apprenticeships by expanding industry-certified programs, according to people familiar with the matter. The order is designed to streamline apprenticeship training to give more certification responsibility to businesses rather than relying on the Department of Labor.
The trip put Trump on friendly political ground to highlight pocketbook issues as the investigation of his campaign’s possible collusion with Russian meddling in the presidential election again dominated national news. As Trump was speaking, cable news networks were broadcasting Attorney General Jeff Session’s testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee.
The White House is trying to counter weeks of national attention on the investigation and the ouster of FBI Director James Comey with a campaign to show him at work on the economy. This week’s theme is workforce development, an area where Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and adviser, has taken on a role as an administration spokesman.
Trump’s visit to Waukesha County Technical College celebrated collaborations between educational institutions and the private sector in a county that backed him for president by 2-to-1 over Democrat Hillary Clinton. Nationally, disapproval of Trump’s handling of the presidency hit a new high of 60% in the most recent Gallup daily tracking poll, completed on Monday.
While in the state, Trump also headlined a fundraiser for Wisconsin’s governor, Republican Scott Walker, who’s expected to announce in the coming months that he’s running for a third term.
Economists and politicians in both parties have focused in recent years on promoting apprenticeships and vocational education. Nonskilled jobs have become an ever smaller percentage of the labor market, leaving workers without a college education in the cold while employers struggle to find workers with technical skills.
Before leaving office, former President Barack Obama announced $175 million in apprenticeship grants to benefit 34,000 Americans. In May, Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama donated $2 million to support summer job and apprenticeship programs in their hometown of Chicago.
Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta released a memo Monday asking federal agencies to eliminate regulations that could create obstacles for apprenticeship programs but didn’t include examples of rules that could impede such programs.
Trump’s 2018 budget proposal cuts funding for job training programs by 40 percent, from $2.7 billion to $1.6 billion. Addressing questions about those proposed cuts during an appearance in the White House press briefing room, Acosta said the administration hopes to foster “private to private partnerships” on job training.