Can Apprenticeship Close the “Skills Gap”?

Date: June 22, 2017

Are you aware of the “skills gap” that has, in part, caused millions of job vacancies in the United States to be unfilled? Last week, the White House brought this issue front and center with a proposal for a bipartisan solution, according to the Washington Post.

During “workforce development week,” President Trump signed an executive order to expand ApprenticeshipUSA, a grant program run by the Department of Labor, and to modify its direction. ApprenticeshipUSA has gained favor within both parties, and last year the Obama administration set aside $90 million in the budget for it through bipartisan approval. 


The White House said that its goal is to empower businesses, industry groups, and labor unions to design skills training for those who are seeking to enter a field but underqualified. The Trump administration also plans to develop apprenticeships in sectors beyond manufacturing, like accounting and healthcare.

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

The Trump administration is attempting to delegate some of the responsibility of building apprenticeship programs out of the Labor Department’s hands and into third parties. The executive order also assembles a task force to guide the promotion of apprenticeships and to help the Labor Department more effectively assess its job-training programs.

NFIB’s most recent Small Business Optimism Index found that hiring activity reached historically high levels last month. Fifty-nine percent of small business owners said they either hired or tried to hire, but 51 percent reported finding few or no qualified workers. The “skills gap” is becoming increasingly problematic for small business owners, and 19 percent of all owners rated finding qualified workers as their top concern.

Small business owners “can’t keep up with customer demand because the labor pool isn’t producing enough qualified workers,” said Bill Dunkelberg, NFIB’s Chief Economist. “It’s a significant structural problem in the economy that policymakers will have to watch.”


Finding Qualified Workers Is the Toughest it’s Been in 17 Years

May 2017 Small Business Optimism Index 

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