Hillary Clinton’s Workforce and Skills Agenda

In South Carolina, Hillary Clinton held a forum at Trident Technical College in North Charleston to discuss the need for youth job training and apprenticeships to help Americans get ahead and stay ahead.

  • As of May 2015, the unemployment rate for 18- to 34-year olds was 7.8 percent – outpacing the overall unemployment rate of 5.5 percent. The unemployment rate among African-American young adults was even higher, at 14.6 percent.

As a part of her vision for building an economy for tomorrow, Clinton explained her belief that every American – especially young Americans – should be able to learn new skills in order to seize a new work opportunity or attain a promotion at their current place of employment.

Clinton outlined high-level principles for a workforce and skills agenda that leads to good jobs and good wages, including:

  1. For workers and job-seekers: Providing more robust, coherent, and accessible training programs and resources that are up to date for 21st Century technology and that lead to good jobs and lifelong skills and credentials.
  2. For training providers: Giving training providers, including community colleges, the support they need to scale up and respond to the needs of the local workforce and employers – while insisting on accountability, transparency and high quality.
  3. For government: Making government at every level a more effective partner in bringing together workers, labor, employers and training providers to prepare workers for good jobs.
  4. For employers: Encouraging employers to invest in their workers for the long term through training, apprenticeships and creating good jobs.

As part of this agenda, Clinton called for a tax credit for businesses for every apprentice they hire.

  • The proposal would put forward a tax credit for businesses of $1,500 per apprentice and would insist on accountability for employment and earnings outcomes for programs receiving the credit. Clinton also said that businesses should receive a bonus on that tax credit for providing opportunities specifically for young people.
  • This proposal builds on bipartisan efforts such as those by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Tim Scott (R-SC), as well as Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Susan Collins (R-ME). In order to be eligible for the credit, apprentices would need to be registered, and qualifying apprenticeship programs would have to meet rigorous federal and/or state standards and outcome measures.

Continuing the themes of her launch speech, Clinton explained that we should do more to encourage businesses to build up the skills of their workers and create good jobs, instead of seeking a quick profit at the expense of these kinds of long-term investments.

She described how apprenticeships are widely cited as a win-win for workers who will see higher wages and businesses who will be able to gain skilled employees.

Experts are praising Clinton’s workforce agenda and plan to provide tax credits to businesses that hire apprentices:

  • Byron Auguste, Managing Director of Opportunity@Work, a civic enterprise based at New America, and former Deputy Director of the National Economic Council and Senior Partner at McKinsey & Company: “What Hillary Clinton is proposing to invest in our workforce is right on track. Changing our workforce policies in ways that encourage employers to put real 'skin in the game' by investing in apprenticeships, on-the-job training, and partnerships with community colleges can make a big difference. Employers spend 20 times as much on training as the federal government does, so smart policies to give them incentives to train people on the retail floor, call center, and factory warehouses to move into better paying jobs make tax dollars spent on training go much further. We need to give more working Americans clear paths into better-paying, skilled middle class jobs that our businesses need to compete and expand."
  • Harry Holzer, Professor at Georgetown’s McCourt School of Public Policy and former Chief Economist for the U.S. Department of Labor: “In order to encourage growth of the middle class, and more security and higher earnings for those in the middle class, we need new policies that help students and workers get the postsecondary credentials that the labor market values, plus important workforce services. In addition, we need to help and encourage employers to provide more well-paying jobs to workers with those credentials. The principles announced by Hillary Clinton today are the right ones to help us achieve those objectives."

Hillary Clinton’s belief in investing in young workers is rooted in her own personal experience and the story and example of her mother Dorothy Rodham.

  • After law school, Clinton went to work for South Carolina’s own Marian Wright Edelman at the Children’s Defense Fund. Clinton has said that, while she has had many jobs since then, it was this first job that set her course for a lifetime of fighting for America’s children and families.
  • It was through the assistance of a grant for law students working on civil rights research that Clinton was able to work for Marian Wright Edelman, who later sent her to South Carolina for the first time to study the plight of kids imprisoned in adult jails.
  • Clinton’s mother, Dorothy Rodham, was abandoned by her parents and, by age 14, was on her own working as a housemaid. Later in life, Rodham explained to Clinton that the woman whose house she cleaned had encouraged her to attend high school – one of the first times she felt inspired to greater purpose in life and emphasizing the importance of a good first job.

Throughout her career, Hillary Clinton has fought to strengthen workforce development and expand opportunities for skills and job training because she knows the value of investing in workers and providing them with a hand up.

  • In 2014, as a part of her work at the Clinton Foundation, she announced Job One, a program focused on creating new economic opportunities for young people in the United States. Job One aims to address job training, hiring and mentoring. It works with employers big and small, as well as unions like the Building Trades. Participants commit to expand opportunities for youth that have been hit hard by the recession and its fallout.
  • In 2003, as Senator, she sponsored the Access to Employment and English Acquisition Act, which would have expanded job training opportunities for people who are Limited English Proficient (LEP). [S. 1543, 7/31/03]
  • Hillary championed Regional Skills Alliances that group together businesses, educational institutions, labor organizations, and state and local governments to develop cutting edge job training methods. [Washington Post, 2/2/00; S.431, 3/1/01; S.2586, 6/24/04; S.1034, 3/29/07]

This is a sharp contrast with Republicans who have passed legislation that could result in further consolidation and cuts in training programs.

  • The budget passed by Republicans in the House and Senate have put education and job training programs at risk by imposing deep spending cuts that could threaten occupational training and adult education programs.