By Stephen Barlas
Is President Trump’s executive order focusing on apprenticeships going to help stimulate the flow of qualified new employees into the manufacturing sector?
The White House thinks so. The president said 350,000 manufacturing jobs
currently are unfilled. Meanwhile, The Manufacturing Institute estimates that in
the manufacturing sector alone, the skills gap in this country will leave 2 million
jobs unfilled over the next 10 years.
The executive order the president issued in June does not specifically mention
how its provisions might spur the arrival of newlytrained manufacturing
workers, whether in metalworking or elsewhere. Its major emphasis seems to
be on allowing industry trade groups to create apprenticeship programs open
to small and medium-size employers and making it possible for those joint
training programs to earn Labor Department “registration” without having to
coordinate with either federal or state agencies, as is now the case. Registered
programs qualify for federal grants. By exempting new apprenticeship programs
from rules specifying classroom time and other requirements and allowing these
industry programs to base certification upon actual job training, the executive
order expects that apprenticeship programs, now concentrated heavily in the
construction industry, will spread to manufacturing.
Of course, large manufacturing companies, such as Boeing, Toyota, and Siemens, have work-based learning apprenticeship programs, and they do them
very well, said Kermit Kaleba, federal policy director, National Skills Coalition
(NSC). He explained, however, that particularly for small and medium-sized
manufacturers, apprenticeship programs can be challenging.
“There are real constraints such as hour requirements for classroom
instruction requiring a mentor to give of some of his or her time,” Kaleba stated.
“Also, there is a lot of daunting work to set up a program, which may or may not
be worth it if you are not hiring dozens or hundreds of new employees a year.
There is also a sense that the process to get registered by the Department of
Labor is overly bureaucratic.”
The Obama administration took some steps to ease Labor Department rules
on registration. The National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS), as a result,
capitalized on that opportunity.
NIMS has launched a new competency-based apprenticeship system for
the nation’s metalworking industry.; The NIMS system represents a dramatic
departure from the time-based system and integrates the NIMS national
standards and skill certifications in defining and measuring required
competencies. NIMS Executive Director James Wall did not respond to requests
for comment on the executive order.
Read more from Stephen Barlas at
Trump responds to calls for more skilled workers
Executive order on apprenticeships
may boost manufacturing ranks
The DOL has long had an apprenticeship program heavily weighted toward
construction occupations. Manufacturing jobs have been an a;erthought. As
of the close of fiscal year 2015, about 21,000 program sponsors, representing
some 200,000 employers, o;ered registered apprenticeship training to more
than 455,000 apprentices. Because those apprenticeship programs meet certain
requirements, the sponsors qualify for about $90 million a year in federal grants.
DOL will have to conduct a rulemaking as it plans to institute Trump’s executive
order, which will call for apprenticeship programs to move away from the time-based model to a competency-based model, as with the new NIMS program. The
executive order does not a;ect DOL funding for apprenticeship programs, which
is a separate matter, dictated by the Trump proposed budget for fiscal 2018. The
Trump administration has requested $90,000 for those apprenticeship programs,
the same amount Obama requested as part of the fiscal 2017 budget.
Reaction to the executive order has been mixed. The National Skills
Coalition, composed of business and labor groups, said it is a good first step
and “seems to adopt elements of NSC’s long-standing recommendation to
harness the collective power of associations of employers, unions, and other
industry stakeholders to update local workforce strategies.”;However, the NSC’s
enthusiasm is muted because of certain elements in the executive order that call
for federal agencies to look at the elimination of some job training programs.
Such a move could undermine the potential benefits of this apprenticeship
initiative and likely deepen the national skills gap the president has highlighted,
according to NSC o;icials.
The Manufacturing Institute, www.themanufacturinginstitute.org
National Institute for Metalworking Skills, www.nims-skills.org
National Skills Coalition, www.nationalskillscoalition.com
U.S. Department of Labor, www.dol.gov
“There are real constraints [for small and medium-sized companies
in setting up apprenticeships] such as hour requirements for
classroom instruction requiring a mentor to give of some of his or
her time. Also, there is a lot of daunting work to set up a program,
which may or may not be worth it if you are not hiring dozens
or hundreds of new employees a year. There is also a sense
that the process to get registered by the Department of Labor
is overly bureaucratic.”
—Kermit Kaleba, National Skills Coalition