By Brandon Pensick, ECA President Email: [email protected]

President Trump recently had two meetings that highlighted the need for big improvements in the nation’s apprenticeship programs. The first was with German Chancellor Angela Merkel where the president expressed admiration for the German apprenticeship approach.

The second was with Mark Benioff, CEO of who made a one-minute pitch to President Trump in a meeting with other tech companies at the White House: An apprenticeship program to create 5 million jobs in the U.S. in the next five years.

“I see a great opportunity to create millions of American jobs through such programs,” Benioff told USA TODAY. “It was a moonshot request.”

President Trump’s response, according to Benioff: “Let’s go for that 5 million.”

This is an issue close to my heart as I am involved in the Laborer’s apprenticeship training program and in my business where the demand for apprentices is constant and growing.

We Need New Blood

The president’s commitment to increasing participation in apprenticeship programs is a welcomed addition to the needs of our industry for new blood in our workforce.

The need was highlighted recently when news reports said that the Los Angeles construction market has a backlog of $20 billion in new projects—and that’s just the big stuff—high-rise condos, giant sports stadiums and heavy infrastructure like subways and airports. It doesn’t include the regular business of business of building or repairing water, sewer and streets that form the backbone of our world.

These big projects are starting to stress the construction labor market; we are hearing about calls for 500 journeymen for this job or that project. The unions, who like the rest of us during the Great Recession suffered the loss of members to other states, are hard pressed to meet some of these demands for manpower. Nonunion contractors are equally hard pressed to find qualified workers.

This is where the statement by President Trump comes for- ward. The official policy of the state of California is to prepare EVERY student in our K-12 education system for college. Our vocational education efforts have virtually vanished under this dictum, something that could be challenge and perhaps reversed by direction of the U.S. Department of Education, just as Common Core became a national priority.

This issue is too important to wait for the feds. In our company, we are discussing setting up a booth at local high school college fairs offering an apprenticeship as an alternative to students who aren’t interested in college. Maybe your companies and associations should too.