President Obama made it official. The first week in November is Apprenticeship Week. According to a Presidential Proclamation “During National Apprenticeship Week, we recognize the ways apprenticeships foster innovation and prosperity, and we recommit to encouraging and supporting those who offer and partake in them.”
Today approximately 430,000 people participate in apprenticeship programs. These programs provide the training and skills needed to compete in our economy. The facts show they work. Approximately 87% of apprenticeship participants find employment after completing the coursework, and they earn over $50,000 on average.
Companies, unions, colleges, industry associations, and local workforce development groups can tap into government grants to build the apprenticeship network. $175 million dollars has been awarded to 46 programs throughout the country. This investment will create an additional 34,000 opportunities over the next five years. Many of the grants are focused on IT, advanced manufacturing and health care sectors. In Pennsylvania several trade unions, colleges, and companies are participating.
Why are apprenticeships so important?
The number of apprenticeship programs has been shrinking since 1998. As unions declined so did the much-needed training of workers. The impending baby-boomer retirement will leave a huge gap in skills and experience. If we don’t act, now, our economic prosperity could be compromised.
We know from experience that apprenticeships are the best way to develop these needed skills. Well-designed programs combine classroom learning with hands-on training. People who participate in these programs are employed at a higher rate, earn more than their counterparts and are very loyal to the companies that provide the training.
Whether grant-based or self-funded, apprenticeship programs pay off. One study in Washington State found that these training programs earn an ROI of $23 per $1 tax dollar spent. This far outpaces secondary career and technical education at $9 to $1.
The road ahead
Some estimates say that there are over 4 million jobs that are going unfilled due to a skilled labor shortage. We have a lot of ground to cover in a short period. To get there, manufacturers, educators and parents all need to work together to encourage children to investigate manufacturing careers early on. Germany has a very successful apprenticeship system and children choose a technical versus academic path at the age of 10. Manufacturing is a preferred career choice for many Germans. We need to change perceptions in the United States if we are going to make an impact.
Are you participating?
Are you a company or organization that is participating in apprenticeship week? Do you have an apprenticeship program? Share your stories here in the comments section of this post. Don't forget to share on Twitter as well at #ApprenticeshipWorks and #NAW15.