Weekend Roundup: Spotlight On The Apprentice

Apprenticeships aren’t for everyone, but they could provide some workers with a route to better careers.

It is where Donald Trump’s reality-TV persona from “The Apprentice” meets his presidency that he can make the most significant difference for the “left behind” constituencies that voted for him. Last week, President Trump issued an executive order calling for the doubling of funding for apprenticeship grants in the United States ― a key area, like infrastructure, where a consensus can be built across America’s divided politics.

In an interview with The WorldPost this week, former U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers makes Trump’s case: “We don’t do anything for people who don’t go to college. They are left to either sink or swim, and mostly they sink. I’m thinking here of the kind of vocational apprentice arrangements that Germany has implemented successfully.” Summers also argues for international economic policies that benefit the average person more than the global corporations, such as closing tax loopholes and shutting down tax havens as a priority over securing intellectual property protection for pharmaceutical companies. “Right now,” he says, “when we discuss the global economy, we mainly talk about things that improve ‘competitiveness’ and are painful to the regular worker.”

Alongside greater investment in public higher education, on-the-job vocational training is essential to creating workforce opportunities not only in a global economy, but, more importantly, when faced with the perpetual disruptions of digital capitalism. As economist Laura Tyson points out, “about 80 percent of the loss in U.S. manufacturing jobs over the last three decades was a result of labor-saving and productivity-enhancing technological change, with trade coming a distant second.” Constantly adjusting to an ever-shifting recomposition of the knowledge-driven innovation economy is only possible if skills remain aligned to the needs of employers.

Brookings Institution policy analyst Mark Muro thinks the president managed to get the big things right with his executive order. “In noting that a four-year college degree isn’t for everyone,” Muro writes, “he spoke reasonably about the potential of paid, hands-on workplace experiences that train workers and link them to employers. In addition, Trump rightly underscored the need for industry — rather than the government — to play the largest role in structuring those experiences.” Tamar Jacoby, president of Opportunity America, a Washington-based nonprofit working to promote economic mobility, concurs that industry, not government, knows best what skills they need. “After more than two years of unlikely promises — to restore coal mining, end offshoring and recreate the manufacturing jobs of a bygone era,” writes Jacoby, “the president is finally focusing on a solution that could make a difference for the working-class voters who elected him: skills.”

Writing from Munich on her way to an international gathering on apprenticeships, Jobs for…

Trump’s call for apprenticeships overlooks ‘opportunity gap’

This photo shows U.S. President Donald J. Trump as he delivers remarks on

Some tech companies considering expansion to the heartland worry about finding local talent. That’s the skills gap. Meanwhile, many workers there, even if they were to acquire the skills sought by tech companies, don’t see ready demand for them. That’s the opportunity gap. And as the conversation around bridging the tech and economic divide progresses, it’s apparent that these vexing gaps are not only intertwined, but present a chicken and egg challenge.

Yesterday, President Donald Trump took an important step toward addressing one of them. He signed an executive order, Expanding Apprenticeships in America, and unveiled initiatives designed to address the skills gap. The order more than doubles federal funding for new apprenticeship training programs, from $90 million to $190 million.

“Apprenticeships place students into great jobs without the crippling debt of traditional four-year college degrees,” Mr. Trump said, describing the potential benefits of the executive order. “Instead apprentices earn while they learn.”

The executive order…