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President Trump signs executive order reducing federal government role in apprenticeship programs

[JURIST] President Donald Trump [official profile] signed an executive order [text] on Thursday, titled "Expanding Apprenticeships in America," shifting the federal government's responsibility of creating and monitoring apprenticeship programs to third party private entities such as businesses, nonprofit organizations, and unions. Under this new system, the third party entities can set their own standards for success and submit their metrics for approval to the Department of Labor [official website]. Stressing the high cost of higher education in today's economy, the order stated that "Far too many individuals today find themselves with crushing student debt and no direct connection to jobs." Toward this end, the order explained the new federal government policy to "provide more affordable pathways to secure, high paying jobs by promoting apprenticeships and effective workforce development programs, while easing the regulatory burden on such programs and reducing or eliminating taxpayer support for ineffective workforce development programs." The order seeks to expand access to pre-internships for different groups such as high school students, formerly incarcerated individuals, members of the military, and individuals currently not attending high school or a post-secondary educational institution. The order also seeks to work apprenticeships into the curriculum for both 2 and 4 year secondary educational institutions. Additionally, the Secretaries of Commerce and Labor are required by this order to promote apprenticeships to business leaders in various sectors including manufacturing, infrastructure, cyber security, and healthcare.

It is estimated that this order will double the amount of money [Politico report] for apprenticeship grants from $90 million to $200 million a year, which is in direct contradiction to Trump's proposed budget imposing a 36% cut to the labor department's job training programs. Former Deputy Secretary of Labor under the Obama Administration, Christopher Lu, criticized the order stating that the said doubling of apprenticeship grants would require "a funding shift from other training programs" because the president's 2018 funding request "is flat." Lu added that the order will remove government oversight of apprenticeship standards, consequently reducing the quality of the apprenticeship programs. Trump's 2018 budget [PDF], titled "A New Foundation For American Greatness," delivered to Congress late last month, has independently come under heavy fire due to massive cuts [WP report] to medical and scientific research, disease prevention programs, education, and health insurance for children. These cuts have prompted the US Commission on Civil Rights [official website], the federal civil rights watchdog, to launch [press release, PDF] "a comprehensive two-year assessment of federal civil rights enforcement," which will conclude in 2019. The purpose of this review is to "examine the degree to which current budgets and staffing levels allow civil rights offices to perform their statutory and regulatory functions, the management practices in place in the offices and whether these practices are sufficient to meet the volume of civil rights issues within the offices’ jurisdiction, and the efficacy of recent resolution efforts from the offices."

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