ORLANDO, FL – A presidential executive order calling on remodeled apprenticeships could help the trucking industry to address a skills shortage and put Americans to work, U.S. Labor Secretary Alex Acosta says.
“The American Trucking Associations could develop an apprenticeship program to meet industry standards,” he told the group during its annual meeting in Florida.
There are certainly jobs to be filled. “American companies have 6.1 million job openings today,” he said. “That’s a record high.” In transportation and warehousing there are 247,000 job openings. The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) has identified the current driver shortage alone at 50,000 people.
Apprentices, however, make up just 0.3% of the U.S. workforce, and average about 28 years old. That means they are entering the programs mid-career. “Wouldn’t it be great to have a job and not have student debt?” Acosta asked. “You’re educating for something in which there are jobs open. Pretty basic.”
Trucking has “robust” training programs, but few are in the form of established apprenticeships, he said. “We can create new career pathways, especially for students, for young Americans looking for jobs.”
“We will not micromanage apprenticeships from Washington,” he promised. “You are in the best position to define what your industry needs and manage those needs.”
Echoing words of U.S. President Donald Trump, he said, “Nothing gets done in America without the hard-working men and women of the trucking industry.” Specifically, Acosta referenced the role of trucks in recent hurricane relief efforts. “Your industry should be proud of what it did during the storms,” he said.
Acosta also highlighted economic gains in the past year. Unemployment is down to 4.2%, the lowest level in 16 years, while Gross Domestic Product in the second quarter is up 3.1%, and inflation is at 1.7%. “This is great news for all Americans and all American job creators,” he said. “We need to keep our foot on the gas to allow job creators like you.”
Citing economic wins that followed the Reagan administration’s tax reforms of the 1980s, Acosta made the pitch for proposed tax reforms including steps to encourage investments in equipment.
“When you buy a new truck, you’re going to need a new truck driver,” he said, linking such investments to job growth.
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