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Apprenticeship Advocacy Opinion

With a Surge in Federal Funding, Apprenticeships Continue to Flourish

Apprenticeships have seen a significant boost in federal funding in recent years and may see even more with the passing of President Biden's new Infrastructure plan. This new funding has allowed apprenticeships to begin to become a vital piece in today's modern workforce and could be the key to the future of work. 

The Development and Rise of Apprenticeships

The apprenticeship model that has long served as a successful training program has seen significant advances in funding and expansion. The world looks to continue to recover from the working conditions implemented by the Covid-19 pandemic. As working conditions continue to adapt and change, apprenticeship programs look more and more attractive to many corporations. Apprenticeships remain a viable option for companies because of their proven effectiveness, which combines both on-the-job training and classroom instruction. This type of program can benefit participants because it allows people an alternative option in pursuing higher education while simultaneously receiving financial compensation for their work.

The expansion of these kinds of programs is the result of past success and the fact it provides companies a cost-efficient way of building a collection of skilled workers for their talent pool. Growing support for apprenticeships especially starting with young people has become an industry standard for countries internationally and believe that the combination of a work and classroom experience creates the most productive and successful work environment. People who complete an apprenticeship go on to boost their career earnings significantly and in States like Florida can earn up to $48,000 in their first year on the job.

A Push in Government Funding and Support

The U.S. government has seen an influx of apprenticeship grants across the Nation as states like California, Texas, and North Carolina lead the charge in the expansion of apprenticeship programs receiving grants of more than $10 million to expand and diversify their programs. Apprenticeships can provide their participants with valuable networking opportunities and create a pathway to a full-time position. Classroom training in many registered apprenticeship programs allows apprentices to simultaneously pursue college credit.

Programs like these will support companies immensely as the growing skilled worker shortage continues to reach all-time highs. Government funding will increase the area's talent pool of skilled workers creating a new workforce ready to take on entry-level jobs. The U.S. Department of Labor released in a recent statement that there is an availability of around $87.5 million in grants available for the purpose of expanding Registered Apprenticeships across the country. There was also said to be up to $40 million in funds that could be awarded to states that work to implement certain diversity requirements.

Forbes Magazine outlines President Biden's plan for apprenticeships as they report,

"A large chunk of the $48 billion President Biden has proposed for workforce training would support apprenticeships. Biden’s aspiration is to create one to two million new registered apprenticeship slots, potentially quadrupling the number of registered apprentices currently working. However, Biden has not yet revealed how he plans to spend that $48 billion. The how matters: it’s far too easy for poorly designed government programs to ruin promising private-sector initiatives.”

The recently passed infrastructure bill from the U.S. senate also includes valuable apprenticeship news as the deal allocates nearly $567 billion in new federal money for various physical infrastructure programs but also creates a pilot apprenticeship program for truck drivers. The program would address the ongoing shortage within the field as well as up to $77.9 billion of the funds will be used to address any freight system needs.

Recent Industry Success

Industry success has been key to the jump in usage of apprenticeships as big tech companies have found apprenticeships can be extremely valuable assets to their company. One program that has seen high-profile success is Verizon’s Thrive Apprenticeship Program, which focuses on recruiting participants from underrepresented and marginalized groups.

Verizon’s Global CIO Shankar Arumugavelu and Martin Giles from Forbes outline the motivation and content of the program stating,

“Diversity in tech has been a huge challenge and continues to be a huge challenge,” says Shankar Arumugavelu, Verizon’s global CIO. “Given this backdrop, we believe that we [have] established an apprenticeship program that can create solid, entry-level developers from a pool of people with limited to no technical experience.” Verizon’s program offers lessons for other tech leaders thinking of launching or expanding DEI initiatives. One is that it can be helpful to partner with other organizations to help identify candidates. Verizon’s tech team worked with a for-profit technology school called Treehouse that runs multiweek-long courses to spot people with the aptitude to become tech workers, for its first intake in 2019, which ended up enrolling 40 people”.

Verizon’s leadership team believes the apprenticeship's initial success is attributed to the fact that from day one apprenticeship participants are given tasks that are crucial to the company’s success as a business. The program's 2019 apprenticeship class saw 29 of 40 participants complete the program and take full-time positions with Verizon. The positive output of the program has the company more than intrigued with the impact a long-term program would bring and has commenced plans to expand the program across the board. The company hopes to recruit over half a million people by 2030 in hopes to equip their participants for the jobs of the future.

The Alternate Route to Higher Education while Continuing to Build Success

Higher education has continued to be a driving pathway for many young kids in or straight out of high school yet not everyone is in a situation to attend a traditional four-year institution. Many companies have been hit by the recent skilled worker shortage and now are turning to apprenticeships to fill their positions. Many experts have seen apprenticeships as the most successful way to match people with in-demand jobs and a U.S. Department of Commerce study conducted in 2016 showed a return rate on a few programs across occupations. One New England Hospital system saw a 40% return on every dollar they invested. Siemens USA ran a program for machinists and saw 50% on their return.

John Deere and Company looks to invest in their community and look to build upon their already effective apprenticeship program by partnering with a few state colleges including Iowa State University where participants get experience in welding but also are provided lessons in communication skills. David Bohlman from ABC News reports on the program partnership saying,

"We partnered with our local high schools. It allows us to develop that continuing pipeline of skilled employees," said Barry Neal who works with the Deere Harvester Apprenticeship Program. Neal says it's also a way to help keep future generations in the Quad Cities rather than moving away. But recognizes even if students move away, they still need the skills to be productive citizens. "We're paying high school students to come develop their skills... we focus on welding but there are also development skills that we work on." Neal goes on to say, "We're trying to help develop folks in the Quad Cities' [area] high schools to be the best employees they can be whether they come work for John Deere or go somewhere else."

Continuing to provide a secondary pathway for higher education will not only help a company’s talent pool and bottom line but also help to alleviate some of the stigma and misconceptions when it comes to trade schools and apprenticeship programs as options for participants' future career paths. Erasing some of the outdated associations with apprenticeships and trade schools will help to bolster participation within the programs increasing the number of skilled workers across the country.

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