With an eye towards “increasingly unaffordable” higher education, President Trump signed an Executive Order on June 15, 2017, seeking to “provide more affordable pathways to secure, high paying jobs by promoting apprenticeships and effective workforce development programs, while easing the regulatory burden on such programs and reducing or eliminating taxpayer support for ineffective workforce development programs.” The Executive Order directs the Department of Labor (“DOL”) to propose regulations that “promote the development of apprenticeship programs by third parties,” including trade and industry groups, companies, non-profit organizations, unions, and joint labor-management organizations. The term “apprenticeship” means “an arrangement that includes a paid-work component and an educational or instructional component, wherein an individual obtains workplace-relevant knowledge and skills.” The Executive Order, in effect, seeks to expand the authority of employers and other third parties to design their own apprenticeship programs and tasks the DOL with implementing or rejecting and assessing such programs on an expedited basis.
The effort to grow apprenticeship programs is supported on both sides of the political aisle, although there are disagreements regarding how best to implement the programs and the appropriate level of governmental oversight that should be involved. It remains to be seen what proposed apprenticeship programs will surface under the new Executive Order, but some employers, including some large corporations have expressed support for increased efforts to improve existing apprenticeship arrangements and develop new ones. The Executive Order may serve as a means for employers of all sizes to design their own apprenticeship programs that best suit the employer’s needs.