EDITORIAL: Donald Trump pushes a job training program that might actually work

After hosting “The Apprentice” for 14 seasons, it’s perhaps no surprise that President Trump is pushing for private companies to ramp up their apprenticeship efforts — efforts that, unlike the federal government’s unsuccessful job-training programs, might actually lead to millions of Americans hearing the words, “You’re hired!”

In a report quietly released last November, the U.S. Labor Department acknowledged that the government’s costly job-training efforts were largely a failure when it came to boosting earnings, providing for training in high-demand occupations or offering services that actually met the needs of job seekers and employers. A report released at the same time by President Obama’s Commerce Department chalked up these failures to the fact that “apprenticeships are not fully understood in the United States.”

President Trump campaigned aggressively on creating jobs, and, as The Associated Press notes, his administration is now forcefully arguing that a positive change in American attitudes toward vocational training and apprenticeships can help achieve that goal.

This week, Mr. Trump signed an executive order that will roughly double (to $200 million) the amount of taxpayer money that’s directed to learn-and-earn programs via the ApprenticeshipUSA grant system. According to senior administration officials, Mr. Trump doesn’t want to spend additional taxpayer funds on the programs, so he seeks to fund the plan by transferring money from the existing budget. Per the order, industry would take the lead on designing apprenticeships according to broad standards established by the Labor Department.

“We’re training people to have great jobs and high paying jobs,” Mr. Trump said at a White House ceremony. “We’re here today to celebrate the dignity of work and the greatness of the American worker.”

As the AP points out, companies have long struggled to find trained candidates for highly technical jobs, and the nation’s last job-training reform — 2014’s Workforce Opportunity and Innovation Act — did little to improve the nation’s apprenticeship programs. While companies offering apprenticeships currently have to register with the Labor Department and stick to rigid government guidelines, Mr. Trump’s order would give private firms more flexibility.

Not only could Mr. Trump’s order help students acquire skills without being saddled with significant college debt, but it could also open up opportunities for women, minorities and others now underrepresented in the current system. Ultimately, the order could go a long way toward closing the “skills gap” that has left upward of 6 million such good and well-paying jobs unfilled in the United States.

And what an outstanding reality show that would be.

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