President Joe Biden signed an executive order this week revoking former President Donald Trump’s order providing federal funds to apprenticeship programs created by industries, calling for more government-controlled alternatives.
In 2017, Trump signed Executive Order 13801, Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Programs (IRAPs). The policy allowed “trade and industry groups, companies, non-profit organizations, unions, and joint labor-management organizations” to create their own apprenticeship programs that would help workers obtain the skills that the economy needed but that universities are not providing, or are providing at a cost that is unaffordable for many Americans.
“Registered Apprenticeships,” approved by the government, have been part of U.S. labor policy for decades. Under the Obama administration, these received more funding. But critics argued that the government-controlled model, run by the Department of Labor and with the involvement of labor unions, held back the growth of apprenticeships. The Trump order allowed industries (and unions) to develop their own programs, within regulations but independent of government control.
The Washington Post — hardly friendly to the Trump administration — reported that his new policy had bipartisan support:
Trump signed an executive order that seeks to reorient and expand ApprenticeshipUSA, a grant program that was previously championed by the Obama administration and has been supported by Democrats and Republicans alike.
The administration’s aim, White House officials say, is to give more flexibility to third parties — including businesses, trade associations and labor unions — to design programs that will offer skills training to those who are seeking jobs for which they are not yet qualified.
Under current rules, the Labor Department is too heavy-handed in crafting the programs, they argue.
But left-wing groups, and some congressional Democrats, objected to Trump’s order. The Center for American Progress complained that Trump was creating “a parallel track that lacks adequate worker protections” that could allow for “the proliferation of low-quality programs.”
Democrats eventually frustrated Trump’s new system, as Bloomberg News noted this week: “Democrats in Congress blocked funding and the implementing regulations weren’t finalized until last year.”
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