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I want you hired: Trump calls for a nation of apprentices

Donald Trump, who turned a run on TV's The Apprentice into a winning presidential campaign, says America needs a stronger apprenticeship system.

"I love the name apprentice," the president declared in Wisconsin.

He said he wanted every high school in America to offer apprenticeship opportunities and hands-on-learning.

Joined by daughter Ivanka Trump, education secretary Betsy DeVos and labour secretary Alex Acosta, Mr Trump outlined his push to persuade private companies and universities to pair up and pay the cost of such arrangements.

"It's called earn while you learn," he said of his initiative, at Waukesha County Technical College.

The president toured a classroom full of tool-and-die machines that simulated a factory floor, accompanied by Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, as his attorney general Jeff Sessions faced questions before the Senate Intelligence Committee on potential Trump campaign ties to Russia and the firing of FBI director James Comey.

The White House said Mr Trump's push is aimed at training workers with specific skills for particular jobs that employers say they cannot fill at a time of historically low unemployment.

However, the most recent budget for the government passed with about 90 million dollars (£70.8m) for apprenticeships, and Mr Trump is not proposing to add more so far .

The Trump administration has said there is a need that can be met with a change in the American attitude towards vocational education and apprenticeships.

A November 2016 report by former president Barack Obama's Commerce Department found "apprenticeships are not fully understood in the United States, especially by employers, who tend to use apprentices for a few, hard-to-fill positions", but not as widely as they could.

The shortages for specifically-trained workers cut across multiple job sectors beyond Mr Trump's beloved construction trades. There are shortages in agriculture, manufacturing, information technology and health care.

Participants in some apprentice programmes receive on-the-job training while going to school, sometimes with companies footing the bill.

IBM, for example, participates in a six-year programme called P-TECH. Students in 60 schools across six states begin in high school, when they get a paid internship, earn an associate's degree and get first-in-line consideration for jobs from 250 participating employers.

But at the Wisconsin event, Mr Trump also heard more broadly about vocational education.

Ella Johnson told the president that she had graduated from Waukesha West High School last weekend and received a certification in welding two weeks earlier from the technical college as part of a dual enrolment programme.

"I plan on welding for a good part of my life, until retirement," she said.

Wisconsin Democratic senator Tammy Baldwin said Mr Trump's "rhetoric doesn't match the reality" of budget cuts he is proposing that would reduce government job training funding by 40% from 2.7 billion to 1.6 billion dollars.

"If you're really interested in promoting apprenticeship, you have to invest in that skills training," said Mike Rosen, president of the Milwaukee chapter of the American Federation of Teachers union.

Apprenticeships are few and far between. Of the 146 million jobs in the United States, about 0.35% - or slightly more than a half-million - were filled by active apprentices in 2016.

Filling millions more jobs through apprenticeships would require the government to massively ramp up its efforts.

"Scaling is the big issue," said Robert Lerman, a fellow at the Urban Institute.

Another complication is only about half of apprentices finish their multi-year programmes, Mr Lerman said.

Fewer than 50,000 people - including 11,104 in the military - completed their apprenticeships in 2016, according to the Labour Department.

AP

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