Rep. Donald Norcross, D-N.J., is a member of Folsom Local 351. Norcross joined with 47 other House members in speaking out against the Trump administration’s proposals.  

‘We’re ready to work with President Trump if he’ll take real steps to prepare our workforce for the future,’ said Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill. Flickr/Creative Commons photo by jconn0403.

A group of 48 Democratic House members – including New Jersey Rep. Donald Norcross, an IBEW member – are warning that the Trump administration’s plan to cut the Labor Department budget by 20 percent would decimate good job-training programs that already exist.

“I graduated from an IBEW apprenticeship program where I learned how to work with my hands to power South Jersey and provide for my family,” said Norcross, a journeyman inside wireman and former business agent for Folsom, N.J., Local 351. “I support programs that give others that same opportunity. I like to call apprenticeships the other four-year college and I want to see more programs that give others that same opportunity.”

Norcross noted he also benefitted from graduating with an associate degree from Camden Community College in New Jersey. Community colleges could face cuts under Trump’s proposal.

“I stand with my colleagues urging caution about untested, unregulated initiatives,” he said. “Let’s focus on promoting the high-quality, successful training programs that already exist.”

Norcross has made job creation a centerpiece of his congressional tenure since his election in 2014. He is the co-sponsor of a bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 over seven years and has proposed allowing 529 plans, which parents can use to save for future college expenses, to be made available for trade school education. He was a co-founder of the Congressional Building Trades Caucus with Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va.

An executive order signed by President Trump on June 15 would increase funding for apprenticeships, intending to give employers more flexibility by weakening standards. Trump wants to expand the program’s budget by about $200 million. IBEW apprenticeship programs, operated by a labor-management partnership, are funded by the IBEW and signatory contractors.

Many Democrats have praised the increased emphasis on apprenticeships, but have cautioned Trump not to cut back on job-development programs.  The administration’s budget calls for a 40 percent cut in such programs.

The Trump administration has called an increased emphasis on apprenticeships in the construction industry and other areas, but changes may lead to weakened standards.

In Illinois, nine of 10 participants in the federal Dislocated Worker Program found new and sustaining jobs within one year, according to a letter sent by Norcross and his colleagues to Trump.

“When it comes to jobs and workforce development, it’s time for this administration to walk the walk,” Alabama Rep. Terri Sewell said. “Rather than slashing the budget for worker training programs, we need to provide more opportunities for American workers to gain the skills and training needed to compete in the modern economy.”

“Across Illinois, I’ve met with manufacturers and small business owners who are hiring, but can’t seem to find the right candidate for the job,” Illinois Rep. Cheri Bustos said. “We’re ready to work with President Trump if he’ll take real steps to prepare our workforce for the future, but instead his budget would make devastating cuts to programs that connect hardworking Americans with the skills they need to get.”