On Thursday, President Trump signed an executive order purporting to boost the Department’s apprenticeship program. In announcing his plans to make available more federal grant money for new apprenticeship programs, Trump also announced that he would diminish federal oversight of these new programs. Traditionally, DOL has required grantees to register their apprenticeship programs with DOL or the appropriate state agency in order “to safeguard the welfare of apprentices, ensure equality of access to apprenticeship programs, and provide integrated employment and training information to sponsors and the local employment and training community.” Calling regulations that protect the quality and integrity of apprenticeship programs “obstacles“, the Trump Administration instead will allow employers and other third parties to police their own quality control. Trump’s weakening of the apprenticeship registration system is significant because in the past, including during the Obama Administration, job training had been one bright spot of bipartisanship. The reaction from Democrats to today’s announcement was mixed. While the White House touted the initiative as pro-worker because it includes a proposal to approximately double the amount of money for apprenticeship grants, the proposed increase would come from cuts to other DOL job training programs and pales in comparison to Trump’s proposed $2 billion in cuts to the overall workforce training budget.
Sharon Block is the Executive Director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School. Prior to coming to Harvard Law School in 2017, she was the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy at the U.S. Department of Labor and Senior Counselor to Secretary of Labor Tom Perez. While serving in the Obama White House as Senior Public Engagement Advisor for Labor and Working Families, Block led the historic White House Summit on Worker Voice. Early in her career she worked as an attorney at the National Labor Relations Board’s Appellate Court Branch, and returned to the NLRB in 2012 when she was appointed to serve as a member of the Board by President Obama. She also served as senior labor and employment counsel to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee under Senator Edward Kennedy. Block received her B.A. from Columbia University and her J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center, where she received the John F. Kennedy Labor Law Award.More by this Author »