In late May, President Trump released his first full budget proposal, titled “A New Foundation for American Greatness.” The plan includes significant cuts to government agencies to free up funds for increased defense spending. Trump’s 2018 budget calls for a 21% decrease in Labor Department funding, including a $1.3 billion cut to programs associated with the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).
WIOA, which was signed into law in July 2014, funds grants that help job seekers get the training, education, and support they need to secure employment. Thus, cuts to WIOA funding mean cuts to critical job-training programs—like those offered by trade schools. Without WIOA funding for vocational training, many trade schools could experience a drop in enrollment. In turn, industries that rely on the skilled labor force could experience a shortage of properly trained workers.
The good news? The President’s proposed budget isn’t set in stone. According to Senate Budget Committee Chairman Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), “The President’s budget is a suggestion. We will take a close look at his budget, but Congress is mandated by the Constitution with key spending responsibilities and will ultimately decide what the nation’s fiscal priorities will be.” This means the WIOA could still be fully funded in 2018.
The bad news? The proposed budget cuts indicate that the current administration doesn’t fully understand the benefits of vocational training and apprenticeships. To turn this around and influence the President’s workforce development approach, trade schools need to step up and spread awareness of the viable career paths that exist beyond a traditional four-year college education.