Last week, the Commerce Department officially named the 25 individuals appointed to the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board. This announcement is the latest in a series of steps that the Trump Administration has taken to implement its workforce policy agenda. With the Advisory Board set to begin work, it is a good time to assess the state of these policies since the president first took office.
President Trump’s first major workforce policy initiative related to apprenticeships — programs that combine paid work with industry skills education. Executive Order 13801, titled “Expanding Apprenticeships in America,” was signed in June 2017 and aims to expand the number of apprenticeships in the United States to 5 million over a five-year period. The EO increased apprenticeship program funding to $200 million, paid for by cutting other skills development and workplace readiness programs overseen by various federal agencies. The EO also diminished the role of the federal government in creating and monitoring apprenticeship programs, shifting that role to third party private entities, including trade groups, labor unions, and businesses.
EO 13801 also established a Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion, which was charged with identifying strategies and proposals to promote apprenticeships throughout the country, especially in sectors where existing programs are insufficient. The Task Force issued its final report in May 2018. A subsequent Training and Employment Notice published by the Labor Department incorporated portions of the Task Force’s findings to establish standards that it will use to evaluate and certify third party providers’ apprenticeship programs.
In July 2018, President Trump expanded on his workforce policy agenda with the Pledge to American Workers, an initiative that recruits U.S. companies and trade groups to pledge to expand programs that educate, train, and reskill American workers. Since July 2018, the initiative has secured over 6.5 million new opportunities pledged from 200 private sector companies. A bipartisan group of 41 governors has also signed the pledge.
A signature piece of the initiative is the National Council for the American Worker, created through Executive Order 13845. The Council is a federal interagency body tasked with creating a national strategy to increase job training opportunities for students and workers through education, skills-based training, and other means of workforce development. The purpose of this initiative is to prepare Americans for the 21st century economy and cultivate a demand-driven approach to workforce development. The Council will devise recommendations on how the federal government can foster partnerships with private employers, educational institutions, labor unions, local governments, and other non-profit organizations to create and promote workforce development strategies that provide evidence-based, affordable education and skills-based training for youths and adults.
EO 13845 also created the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board. The Board is co-chaired by Commerce Secretary Ross and Ivanka Trump, and it is responsible for providing advice to the Council on federal workforce policy, including recommending steps to encourage the private sector and educational institutions to combat the skills crisis by investing in and increasing demand-driven education, training, and re-training, including through apprenticeships and work-based learning opportunities. The recently-announced members of the Board are made up of leaders in the private sector, educational institutions, and states in order to provide diverse perspectives on education, training, and re-training for American workers.
With the Board now in place, businesses can expect the Trump Administration to continue pursuing a workforce policy agenda focused on 21st-century skills training, deregulation, and increased public-private partnerships. For example, the President’s recent Executive Order on Maintaining American Leadership in Artificial Intelligence directs federal agencies to provide educational grants for AI-oriented worker training and coordinate with the National Council for the American Worker on matters regarding AI and the workforce. Further activity should be expected pending public reports by the Council and the Board.