With her eyes on the youth vote, Hillary Clinton pitched a plan in South Carolina Wednesday that would incentivize apprenticeships and promised that she would roll out a plan on college affordability within weeks.
She proposed a $1,500 credit to businesses for every apprentice they hire, and that the program would hold business accountable for their apprenticeship program. The apprenticeships would be registered with either a federal or state program that would ensure standards were met.
During the speech, Clinton highlighted the 2014 bipartisan plan from Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, a Republican who hails from North Charleston, and Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, a Democrat. In 2014, the duo introduced the LEAP Act, a plan that would do exactly what Clinton plans to do: Provide employers with a tax credit when they hired apprentices.
As she has in the past, Clinton cast herself as a fighter willing to work with both parties. But in South Carolina, a majority Republican state, Clinton pressed hard on the bipartisan message.
“I want to ask my Republicans friends, and I have a lot of them … to think hard about how we can invest in the people who need it most,” Clinton said during her relatively short speech. “We have done enough for those who have already been successful. I want to be a president for both the successful and the struggling, and right now, the struggling need more help.”
She added, “I don’t care what party you are, I don’t care where you are from, bring the best ideas, bring the best partners and lets solve problems together.”
Clinton also addressed an issue that has become a focus for a host of liberal groups: College affordability.
The former secretary of state promised she would roll out a “comprehensive proposal” in the coming week about “what to do about making college affordable and (lowering) the debt load of people who are already out of school.”
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s most significant 2016 opponent so far, has been an outspoken proponent of debt-free college and has received the vocal backing of liberal groups like the Progressive Change Campaign Caucus for that position.
Clinton said that in order to fully addressed higher education, the country will have to “change how we consider education.”
“It is too expensive for so many young kids and their families to afford to go to college right now,” she said. “So we have got to give ways for people to get the cost down.”
In particular, Clinton touted “vocational and technical education” as a way to address what each local workforce needs.
The speech was hosted by Trident Technical College, a small college in North Charleston. The auditorium was full, with a dozen people being kept out of the event.
The speech, however, offered very few specifics in how the apprentice plan would be implemented. Operatives from the Republican National Committee were in the room, planning to “bracket” Clinton’s remarks.
“Hillary Clinton’s economic proposals have been light on details and heavy on hypocrisy – another example of why voters overwhelmingly believe she is not honest and trustworthy,” RNC spokesman Michael Short said after the event.
While the national unemployment rate has fallen from 10% to 5.5% since the country entered recession in 2008, youth unemployment has remained stubbornly high at around 8%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
And while Clinton aides argue that Wednesday’s speech is good policy, they acknowledged that it is also good politics. Millennials – people between the ages of 18 and 34 – will become the nation’s largest living generation this year, according to the Pew Research Center, a fact that makes targeting them with policy proposals in a presidential election critical.
Wednesday marks the second time Clinton has visited South Carolina, an early voting state, since announcing her presidential run in April. After the event at Trident Technical College, Clinton headed to a fundraiser at the home of Akim and Constance Anastopoulo.