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

One of the biggest problems facing the construction industry nationally is the need for more apprentices in the building trades. On June 15th, President Trump signed an executive order to help broaden the reach of private-sector apprenticeship programs in an effort to close a “skills gap” that left six million jobs unfilled as of April of this year.

The six million figure came from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Job Openings and Labor Turnover report issued on June 6th. According to the JOLTS report, 203,000 construction jobs went begging as of April 30th.

President Trump’s Executive Order seeks to reduce federal government regulations of apprenticeship programs. In the process, it also attempts to expand funding through grant programs and produce more private industry and union participation.

White House officials state that they aim 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.

“We have regulations upon regulations and in history nobody has gotten rid of so many regulations as the Trump administration,” the president said. “So we’re empowering these companies, these unions, industry trade groups, federal agencies to go out and create new apprenticeships for millions of our citizens.”

The first section of the order clearly states the urgent need for this new approach to apprenticeship programs:

America’s education systems and workforce development programs are in need of reform. In today’s rapidly changing economy, it is more important than ever to prepare workers to fill both existing and newly created jobs and to prepare workers for the jobs of the future. Higher education, however, is becoming increasingly unaffordable. Furthermore, many colleges and universities fail to help students graduate with the skills necessary to secure high paying jobs in today’s workforce. Far too many individuals today find themselves with crushing student debt and no direct connection to jobs.

President Trump wants to expand the program’s budget to about $200 million, roughly twice its existing level, by redirecting money from the Labor Department, said a White House official, adding that they are seeking bipartisan support for their job-training initiative.

ECA supports the President’s effort to provide a highly skilled workforce for our nation’s future and will continue to work actively with our trade union partners to strengthen our existing apprenticeship programs. You can be a part of the solution by participating in our joint association/union committees.