Members of the Trump Administration met with CEOs of more than 50 companies on Tuesday morning to focus in on how they were planning on reforming various sectors of the economy. For the first time, Ivanka Trump and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross gave specifics on how they were focusing on reforming education and employment opportunities for millennials.
Ivanka said that the administration was focused on two types of educational reform, pushing K-12 schools to teach more science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) training and, secondly, on reforming vocational training.
“We’re looking at the role of vocational education in particular apprenticeships,” Ivanka said before praising the way Germany and Switzerland promote that training in their respective countries, focusing on students splitting their time between a classroom and on-the-job experience at a company.
Ivanka said that the Trump Administration has launched a task force to figure out how to partner private businesses with colleges to create apprenticeships. She said that there are over half-a-million jobs that aren’t filled because millennials haven’t had the proper training in college.
Ross said that while big businesses do a pretty good job creating some form of apprenticeships, small businesses have difficulty and that’s where the administration’s focus needs to be spent because new and smaller companies are often the ones that create jobs.
“We’re looking at programs whereby (small businesses) can get an assurance of retention through a kind of loan program to the students with the idea being they would gradually forgive those loans as the student stays on with the employer, maybe over a five-year period,” Secretary Ross said. “Trying to match that with tax deductibility to the corporation, but hopefully not taxable income to the student as the loans are forgiven. Couple that with maybe some loans from the small business administration to the little companies backed by the companies’ credit and the loans made to the student.”
In the most basic terms, it sounds like the program would allow students to work for a company learning a skill and earn a small non-taxable income. Additionally, rather than paying a large tuition as is the case with college, students can earn a loan that could be paid off by working for the small corporation for five years.
The Commerce Secretary said he’s getting into the “nitty-gritty” including creating new and expanding existing certification programs because he wants to roll it out on a nationwide basis.
Ross also emphasized the need to rebrand and expand vocational education, stating that there’s no shame in a millennial to pursue options outside of college.
“I’d like to challenge the people in this audience to come up with the best way to label vocational (training),” Ross said. “I think (vocational education) needs rebranding in two dimensions. One with the young people themselves because “vocational has taken on a pejorative meaning and the other is with parents. They have a revulsion that their offspring might have to actually work with their hands or not go to college. We need to change both mindsets.”
Watch the whole town hall below, the vocational job portion starts at the one hour and nine-minute mark: