President Trump is due to announce an apprenticeship initiative on Wednesday that will aim to fill a gap between six million jobs currently available and American workers who can fill them, Labor Secretary Alex Acosta said Monday.
Acosta said despite there being six million job openings in the U.S., there are not enough Americans workers with specialized skills to fill them.
“Americans want to work. American companies want to hire,” he said at a White House briefing. “The issue is a mismatch between available jobs and prospective employee jobs skills.”
He highlighted that the current unemployment rate is 4.3 percent — the lowest it has been in 16 years, since 2001. But, he said, there are currently about 6.9 million American workers unemployed.
Acosta said the new initiative will aim to foster “private-private” partnerships between employers and educational institutions such as community colleges so that American workers can gain the skills they need without accumulating massive debt.
Those fields will include the fast-growing sectors of health care and information technology, as well as the legal field and law enforcement, he said.
He said they will also include manufacturing and construction. Acosta said there are currently 360,000 job vacancies in manufacturing and 200,000 jobs in construction.
Apprenticeships will enable workers to gear their education towards getting jobs and not acquiring huge amounts of debt, Acosta said.
For example, he said he spoke to a student at a university who wanted to become a police officer and was studying criminal justice.
“When [he] graduated, he had student debt, but he didn’t have a job because criminal justice doesn’t prepare you to be a police officer,” he said. “So what would things be like if actually a criminal justice degree allowed students that wanted to have the option to also attend a police academy?”
He said another example would be an education program to receive job training to be a paralegal or legal assistant.
Acosta said apprenticeships can also reach certain communities, such as women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, or STEM.
“This is going to be a great thing for expanding opportunities, for example, to women and STEM,” he said.
But, he added, “We’re looking to push apprenticeships across the board — all people, all industries. This is an opportunity for everyone.”
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who briefed White House reporters after Acosta, said the Department of Agriculture on Monday released guidance for American beef producers preparing to ship beef to Chinese markets for the first time since 2003.
Last month, Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping reached an agreement to reopen the Chinese market to American beef exports, which Spicer said is a $2.5 billion market.
“The president’s goal is a booming and vibrant American economy. The administration will continue to work everyday to turn the president’s promises into policies,” he said.