In bid for Millennials, Hillary Clinton proposes apprenticeship program

By giving tax credits to businesses who hire apprentices, Hillary Clinton hopes to reduce unemployment, especially among youths.

Randall Hill/Reuters
A supporter of US Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton displays campaign buttons prior to a campaign meeting with community leaders at the Santee Conference Center in Santee, South Carolina Wednesday.

Hillary Clinton wants businesses to start hiring more young apprentices, and she plans to give them incentives to do it.

At a South Carolina stop on the campaign trail Wednesday, Ms. Clinton announced plans to offer businesses a $1,500 tax credit for each apprentice, Reuters reported.

Courting Millennials, the group composed of 18- to 34-year-olds, could produce big payoffs for Clinton, as Pew Research Center data suggests that by the end of the year, Millennials will be the largest living population in the United States.

While unemployment nationwide was only 5.5 percent in May 2015, Millennials bore a disproportionate share of the load. On average, Millennials are more than twice as likely as the over-35 set to be looking for work, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Clinton's aides said her plan would echo a bill introduced by Senators Tim Scott (R) of South Carolina and Cory Booker (D) of New Jersey called the LEAP program, which supporters have said could create as many as 400,000 new jobs.

Workers in apprenticeships earn on average $6,595 more per year after completing the program, according to a 2012 Department of Labor study. A 2013 report found that former apprentices can command an average starting salary of $50,000.

Under Clinton’s plan, paid apprenticeships could present an attractive alternative to unpaid internships for students and recent graduates looking for work and on-the-job training.

“Apprenticeships are a proven way to help people develop in-demand skills and to meet the needs of employers, yet they compose just 0.2 percent of the nation’s workforce,” according to a LEAP press release. Millions of jobs remain unfilled because companies struggle to find qualified workers, notes Sen. Booker’s website

Meanwhile, The Atlantic's provocatively titled "Work Is Work: Why Free Internships Are Immoral" estimated that between 500,000 and 1 million interns work for free in the United States. Fair Labor Standards Act guidelines say unpaid internships must meet certain criteria, such as making sure the employer does not gain any direct benefit from the intern’s work, and that the internship is structured as an educational experience, but these requirements are rarely enforced.

Apprenticeship Carolina director Brad Neese told the Wall Street Journal last year that apprenticeships can help reconcile a college graduate’s greenness in terms of experience and the lack of meaningful work involved in many internships.

Neese said that while college graduates often demonstrate “a real lack of applicability in terms of skill level” and says “interns do grunt work, generally,” he sees an apprenticeship as “a real job.”

But apprenticeship programs have downsides, too. The Wall Street Journal reported that businesses are often reluctant to hire apprentices, fearing they may later lose their investment to another company, and that Labor Department statistics showed a 40% drop from 2003 to 2013 in programs “that combine on-the-job learning with mentorships and classroom education.”

Additionally, it is unclear whether or not tax credits are effective incentives for businesses, according to The Huffington Post’s 2012 analysis of the HIRE Act, under which businesses could earn tax credits for hiring and retaining unemployed workers.

“The Treasury Department reported that from February to October of 2010, businesses hired more than 10 million unemployed people who could have made them eligible for the law's incentives,” Arthur Delaney wrote in the article. “But there's no telling how many of those hires were actually caused by the incentives, and economists took a dim view of the program. Economists and worker advocates have suspected employers would collect incentives for hires they would have made anyway.”

Clinton is expected to announce more details and discuss her own apprenticeship at the Children’s Defense Fund in 1973 later Wednesday, CNN reported.

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