Doubling down on work-based learning

President Donald Trump holds up an executive order he signed Thursday that establishes a National Council for the American Worker during a ceremony in the White House. (Photo: AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

To keep the U.S. economy on course and growing, President Donald Trump is asking U.S. companies and trade associations to increase their job training opportunities as employers seek skilled workers to fill vacancies.

Trump on Thursday held a White House event with corporate leaders, workers and students to promote apprenticeships, vocational opportunities and job training. The president wants companies and trade organizations to sign a “Pledge to America’s Workers” to provide the training for their workforce. He’d like those entities to create apprenticeships and other work-based learning experiences over the next few years to serve nearly 4 million students and incumbent workers who want to upgrade their skills or change careers.

Some of the companies agreeing to the pledge include General Motors, FedEx, Home Depot, IBM, Lockheed Martin, Microsoft, Northrop Grumman and Walmart. Several trade associations — from trucking and construction, to information technology and human resources — also are committing to the job training initiative. Many of CEOs of those companies were on hand Thursday to announce how many work experiences they plan to provide. Also present at the event were Sandra Kurtinitis, president of the Community College of Baltimore County and board chair of the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), and Mary Graham, president of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and immediate past chair of the AACC board.

New council, advisory board

The president’s workforce initiative includes a new National Council for the American Worker comprising top government officials. Helping it will be an advisory board that will include CEOs from trade associations, business and industry and other sectors. Members of the board will soon be announced.

AACC applauded the White House’s executive order to establish the board.

“Providing high-quality education and job training that is accessible and affordable is a vital part of the community college mission,” said AACC President and CEO Walter Bumphus. “Coming together across traditional public and private sectors to identify needs and opportunities on a national scale will benefit both businesses and individuals across the country and help to ensure a strong American workforce now and in the future.”

(From left) Community College of Baltimore County President Sandra Kurtinitis, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College President Mary Graham at Thursday’s White House event. (Photo: Angel Royal/AACC)

A word from economic advisers

Earlier this week the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers released a report outlining the importance of re-skilling America’s workers for emerging jobs. It noted work-based learning opportunities as a critical component, including apprenticeships, as well as policy changes, such as allowing students to use Pell grants for short-term workforce programs.

The report stressed lifelong learning and opportunities to update skills for all Americans, from recent high school and college graduates to older incumbent workers. It highlighted examples of current innovative programs, from the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education program, which brings together community colleges with industry, to individual community college and business partnerships. Examples of those include collaborations between South Carolina community colleges and Toyota, and Pierpont Community and Technical College’s retraining opportunities through the Robert C. Byrd National Aerospace Education Center in West Virginia.

“Community colleges in partnership with local industries offer some of the most innovative reskilling programs in the United States,” the council said. “These programs have the advantage of addressing a localized skills gap jointly determined by industry and education institutions in the absence of a national survey of skills gaps that would identify these specialized skills as areas of great national need.”

Funding opportunity for apprenticeships


About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
Matthew Dembicki edits Community College Daily and serves as associate vice president of communications for the American Association of Community Colleges.