President Donald Trump announced Friday that he will refocus hiring standards for the federal government on “merit” by assessing skills rather than college degrees so that more workers have a shot at the millions of federal jobs.

The order states that the federal government, the nation’s largest employer with 2 million workers, must rework job hiring processes to prioritize skills so that previously out-of-reach government jobs are more accessible to people with nontraditional backgrounds, including those without four-year degrees and those who have graduated from skills-based apprenticeship programs.

Trump said the pandemic has wrought havoc on the workforce, particularly for Black Americans, and that this program, along with increased funding for apprenticeship programs, will bring back the workforce and economy.

“The federal government will no longer be narrowly focused on where you went to school, but the skills and the talents that you bring to the job,” he said. “We want it based on merit.”

Ginni Rometty of IBM, a member of the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board, which met with Trump and White House adviser Ivanka Trump prior to the signing, said that 15 percent of IBM’s new hires last year were “skills-first” hires. She added that IBM has also implemented an apprenticeship program that now employs 500 trainees per year.

Rometty unveiled a private sector advertising campaign, led by IBM, Apple and the nonprofit Ad Council, that promotes, a website to educate people seeking new career paths on their options and provide resources, like resume reviews and child care. The campaign is set to debut mid-July.

In the meeting, Ivanka Trump also noted that the president supported a bill passed by Congress that provided $1 billion annual for vocational education programs and an expansion of apprenticeship programs, which she said have enrolled 750,000 new students since her father took office.

The president said, “We’re training American and we’re hiring American.”

Critics have cited the unequal balance of workers in the apprenticeship programs. The Center for American Progress found large disparities in apprentice earnings among racial groups and genders. For example, Hispanic women earned, on average, $12.59 per hour, while white men earned $28.07. Men also make up almost 93% of the apprentice workforce.

Apprenticeships, which are popular in Europe, are learning opportunities paid for by companies, often accompanied by associate’s degree programs, that train students in specific skills, such as computer science or programming and maintenance of complex machinery.

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