President Donald Trump’s Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta touted the administration’s push Monday to incorporate apprenticeship programs as part of a larger effort to close the nation’s skills gap.
Acosta said that the skills gap is a particular challenge in healthcare and information technology, some of the fastest growing sectors in the economy, but also explained that it persists in some of the more traditional sectors of the economy.
“Americans want to work, American companies want to hire,” Acosta said from the White House press briefing room. “The issue is a mismatch between available jobs and prospective employee’s jobs skills,” he said, citing a survey where 95 percent of executives reported problems finding qualified workers.
“There are currently 360,000 job vacancies in manufacturing,” Acosta said. “There are 200,000 job vacancies in construction, and with the upcoming plans for infrastructure, those job vacancies in construction are only going to increase.”
There are approximately 6.04 million job openings in the United States, according to government reports. That figure represents an increase of 400,000 job openings from April 2016, and is the highest number since the federal government started tracking job openings in 2001. (RELATED: American Job Openings Top Record-Breaking 6 Million)
Acosta tied the Department of Labor’s focus on apprenticeship programs to the president’s “America first” mantra. “President Trump has made clear his commitment to expand job opportunities here in America,” Acosta said. “Apprenticeships is one very important way that President Trump will fulfill that promise.”
The average starting salary for an apprentice is $60,000, according to Acosta, which is higher than the starting salary for a college graduate. When asked how he planned to expand the apprenticeship programs without putting more tax dollars into it, Acosta pointed to private money.
“The building trades invest nearly a billion a year of private money into the apprenticeship programs,” Acosta explained. “There’s excitement in the business sector.” He traveled to Germany in mid-May where he toured a BMW facility known for a robust apprenticeship program.
Acosta is travelling to Wisconsin with Ivanka Trump as part of what the White House is calling “workforce development week.”
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