Trump’s Plan Promotes Apprenticeships as a Way of Putting People to Work

President Donald Trump thinks apprenticeships could be the key to matching workers with the millions of open jobs available in this country right now.

Earlier this year, the CEO of Salesforce, Marc Benioff, challenged Trump to establish an apprenticeship program that will create as many as five million new positions in the U.S. over the next five years.

Trump responded to Benioff’s pitch by saying, “Let’s go for that five million.”

Lots of Support for Apprenticeship Programs

People seem to agree that upping the number of apprenticeships opportunities in this country would be a good idea. Economists, employers, Republicans and Democrats alike all tend to be in favor of apprenticeships as an inroad to a career, notes The Washington Post.

“Apprenticeships are going to be a big, big factor in our country,” Trump said during his first full Cabinet meeting. “There are millions of good jobs that lead to great careers, jobs that do not require a four-year degree or the massive debt that often comes with those four-year degrees and even two-year degrees.”

But It Won’t Be That Simple

The most recent federal budget that was passed allows for about $90 million to go toward this apprenticeship program.

The administration is reluctant to devote any more taxpayer funds to the effort, instead opting to encourage universities and private companies to pair up and front the cost of these “learn-to-earn arrangements.”

“I want to challenge the assumption that the only way to move policy is to increase government spending,” Labor Secretary Alex Acosta said at the White House news briefing on Monday. “We should measure success based on outcomes and not simply based on spending.”

Details on Trump’s Proposal Remain Unclear

However, the details as to how this plan will play out within the current budget remain unclear. Last year in the U.S. there were only 450,000 apprentices, but there are currently 6.8 million unemployed workers who are actively looking for jobs.

“You have to create a lot of programs, double or quadruple, before apprenticeships become a lever that’s really scalable in helping us to close the skills gap,” said David Blake, CEO of Degreed, an education technology firm.

The problem is that with an initiative this large, it will be difficult to get businesses on board without a little financial help.

And, as Susan Helper, a former Commerce Department chief economist, notes, it will probably take more than the budgeted $90 million to cover the upfront administrative costs necessary for increasing the number of apprenticeship programs, particularly for smaller business and community colleges, which is a sector in which apprenticeship programs seem to thrive.

As this initiative takes shape over the coming months, we’ll be back with important updates on what this could mean for you.

Grace Schweizer is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder.