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H-1B visa fee used to fund apprentice programme: US commerce secretary

Wilbur Ross said the additional public funding could help establish new apprenticeship programmes in the travel and tourism industry.

Jul 18, 2019, 02.09 PM IST
WASHINGTON: The US is financing its ambitious apprentice programme to close the skills gap amongst Americans from funds generated by the H-1B visa fee, according to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

The H-1B visa programme allows employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in the US on a non-immigrant basis in specialty occupations or as fashion models of distinguished merit and ability. The H-1B visas are the most sought-after by Indian IT professionals.

Ross said Wednesday that the Trump administration had launched a new "Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship System" in a major effort to spur employer-led training and was now planning to expand it.

He said the additional public funding could help establish new apprenticeship programmes in the travel and tourism industry.

According to Ross, the Department of Labor has USD 100 million in funding available for about 30 apprenticeship grants. These will go to public/private partnerships to develop new apprenticeship models and expand existing apprenticeship programmes.

In his address to the US Travel and Tourism Advisory Board, Ross said: "The funding source is the fees companies pay to hire foreign workers under the H-1B visa programme. These fees are then provided as grants for training American workers in the occupations for which employers are hiring H-1B workers, such as IT jobs."

The Department of Labor is expanding its apprenticeship programmes to include cybersecurity and artificial intelligence since every sector of the economy requires workers with these skill sets, Ross added.

The grants are funded through H-1B visa fees, which are paid to bring foreign workers to America when Americans cannot be found to fill open jobs.

The US government grants will support the training of more than 85,000 apprentices in new or expanded apprenticeship programmes and increase apprenticeship opportunities for all Americans.

"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," a senior Trump administration official said in June when the Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship System was expanded.
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