New Democrat Coalition Sends Letter in Support of Apprenticeships to President Trump

Washington, DC – This week, 48 Members of the New Democrat Coalition sent a letter to President Trump calling for a robust commitment to apprenticeship programs. The letter, led by Reps. Cheri Bustos (IL-17), Terri Sewell (AL-07), Ann McLane Kuster (NH-02), and Donald Norcross (NJ-01), outlines the importance of apprenticeships and urges the administration to maintain strong levels of funding for apprenticeship initiatives across the country.

“Growing our economy and providing Americans with the skills they need to succeed are among our top priorities as members of the New Democrat Coalition,” said Rep. Cheri Bustos. “Across Illinois, I’ve met with manufacturers and small business owners who are hiring, but can’t seem to find the right candidate for the job. We’re ready to work with President Trump if he’ll take real steps to prepare our workforce for the future, but instead his budget would make devastating cuts to programs that connect hardworking Americans with the skills they need to get ahead. Rather than cutting programs that support high schools, community colleges and job training programs, President Trump should work with Democrats and Republicans in Congress on this important issue.”

“When it comes to jobs and workforce development, it’s time for this Administration to walk the walk,” said New Dem Vice-Chair Rep. Terri Sewell. “Rather than slashing the budget for worker training programs, we need to provide more opportunities for American workers to gain the skills and training needed to compete in the modern economy. The workforce development programs which the President cuts in this year’s budget have helped to reduce unemployment in Alabama and have brought veterans back into the civilian workforce. Hardworking Americans deserve more than empty rhetoric on jobs, and I urge this President to make good on his promise for job growth by working with Congress to support and strengthen our proven workforce development programs.”

“I graduated from an IBEW apprenticeship program where I learned how to work with my hands to power South Jersey and provide for my family. I support programs that give others that same opportunity,” said Rep. Donald Norcross, an electrician by trade. “I like to call apprenticeships ‘the other four-year college’ and I want to see more programs teaching the skills needed for the good-paying jobs of tomorrow. However, I stand with my colleagues urging caution about untested, unregulated initiatives. Let’s focus on promoting the high-quality, successful training programs that already exist – like the one that helped me go from Community College to Congress.”

“Effectively training workers in the skills employers demand is critical to fostering a competitive and innovative economy,” said Rep. Ann McLane Kuster. “Not only do we need to expand resources for training, we must modernize our apprenticeship programs and certifications to ensure that they fit the needs of workers and employers.  We should work together to strengthen, not cut, workforce training programs, and I’ll push the Administration to expand opportunities for workers.”

See here and below for a copy of the letter.

President Trump:

As Members of the New Democrat Coalition who have long-focused on job growth and workforce development, we appreciate your interest in apprenticeships and other training programs.  However, we are concerned by your proposed cuts to federal workforce development initiatives in the FY2018 budget. We value results over rhetoric. These budget cuts are incongruent with the promise you made to the American people.

Ensuring American workers have the skills and training needed to advance in the modern economy is a priority we share. As technology has advanced, workforce needs have changed. A report from the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University shows that by 2020, 65 percent of all jobs in the US economy will require postsecondary education and training beyond high school. In 1973, that was reversed: those with postsecondary education only accounted for 28 percent of the workforce. In manufacturing, construction, and other critical industries, our nation’s growing skills gap damages the competitive position of many employers.  A report commissioned by the Manufacturing Institute estimates that nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will open over the next decade, yet 2 million will go unfilled due to a shortage of talent. This shift has left, and will continue to leave, American workers behind without strategic investments in workforce development and skills training programs.

Despite its limited details, we recognize the merits of certain aspects of your apprenticeship plan. Yet diminishing federal investments in workforce training is a faulty foundation for success. Your budget cuts over $1 billion in grants designed to help states meet talent needs and foster economic growth. Career and Technical Education grants, which support our high schools and community colleges, will be cut by 15 percent. Job training and placement programs authorized under the bipartisan Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) would be decreased by 40 percent under your proposal. Many of these initiatives are still being implemented, and funding cuts could derail their progress toward successful outcomes.

Our nation’s workforce development initiatives aim not only to improve our competiveness in the long-term, but provide services to workers in need of new employment. Federal funding is crucial to ensuring that successful initiatives continue to produce results for workers across the country. In Illinois, nearly nine in ten participants of the Dislocated Worker Program gained and retained employment within a year of exiting the program. The services provided by this program – career counseling, job placement assistance, and occupational skills training – can make all the difference to employees and prospective employers. In 2016, Alabama’s WIOA-funded career centers met all 13 goals related to veteran unemployment set by the U.S. Department of Labor for the first time and the veteran unemployment rate decreased from 5.6 percent to 3.1 percent by the end of the year. A study by the Fordham Institute released last year found that students in Arkansas who participated in a concentrated CTE program were more likely to graduate high school. While we acknowledge the need to work together to continue improving outcomes, your approach disregards current progress, and could jeopardize our ability to keep pace with growing industries and ultimately stifle our economic potential.

As our economy continues to change and people find work in new ways, we must create more apprenticeship opportunities that will help workers get the skills they need. We should expand innovative initiatives that align education and workforce needs by facilitating partnerships between local businesses, workforce intermediary partnerships, and educational institutions like community colleges. We should modernize the apprenticeship certification process to allow for the creation of new, high-quality programs that offer the opportunity for economic growth and access to good jobs for underemployed, unemployed, and displaced Americans. However, we are concerned with efforts that could dramatically scale back or remove federal oversight from apprenticeship programs, especially those that receive federal funding. We believe students and taxpayers deserve standards of quality assurance.

We are ready and willing to work with you to create innovative job training programs and improve our existing workforce development efforts, but we are concerned that any positive outcomes from your new initiative would be overshadowed by the negative impacts of your cuts to existing programs and lack of consumer protections. With people across our country struggling to provide for their families, new initiatives should complement—not compete with—proven job training and placement assistance.