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Trump, Pritzker push to improve apprenticeships

By Cole Lauterbach
The Center Square

SPRINGFIELD – They may agree on next to nothing, but Gov. J.B. Pritzker and President Donald Trump are both working to improve the availability of apprenticeship programs to help fill the need for skilled labor.

The freshman president, no stranger to apprenticeships, proposed a rule change late last month that would streamline the process for schools and businesses to coordinate on offering the opportunities and increase funding to coordinate the programs.

“The apprenticeship model of earning while learning has worked well in many American industries, and today we open opportunities for apprenticeships to flourish in new sectors of our economy,” U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta said in a statement. “With 7.4 million open jobs and job creators searching for skilled job seekers, apprenticeship expansion will continue to close the skills gap and strengthen the greatest workforce in the world – the American workforce.”

The move is a shift away from some government agencies that had an interest in keeping a robust funnel of young adults entering four-year colleges regardless of whether it was the best fit, said Sam Adolphsen, policy director at the Foundation for Government Accountability.

“There were some government entities in the past that, I think, didn’t want to see these opportunities expanded,” he said. 

In Illinois, Pritzker signed a bill into law Friday that offers a tax credit to businesses that bring in qualified apprentices. 

“An important part of my job is to transform our state into one of the most forward-thinking, economically prosperous, and innovative in the nation,” the governor said. “We have the most talented and dedicated workforce in the nation – but we need to produce tens of thousands of new skilled workers each year for the next ten years to replace the highly skilled manufacturing workforce that’s retiring – and to meet the growing demand for quality, talented employees.”

The idea was an initiative of the Illinois Manufacturers Association to bolster the number of new skilled workers to replace the growing number of retiring baby boomers. 

“With 300,000 men and women set to retire from shop floors in the next decade, this new apprenticeship credit will allow manufacturers to jumpstart their efforts to build a pipeline of workers to fill the next generation of manufacturing jobs,” said Illinois Manufacturers Association President and CEO Mark Denzler.

The new law also extended the state’s research and development credit to Dec. 31, 2026.

“Apprenticeships leave their participants with little to no debt and give them marketable job skills in their industry,” said Sen. Ann Gillespie, the Arlington Heights Democrat who sponsored the bill.

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