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Federal agencies, industry officials sketch Apprenticeship Expansion roadmap

Sources: U.S. Department of Labor; CP staff

The 20-member Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion, representing business, labor, trade and industry groups, plus educational institutions and public agencies, offers actions and policy recommendations in a report presented to President Donald Trump earlier this month. 

“Apprenticeship programs, when implemented effectively, provide workers with a career path featuring paid on-the-job training, skills development, and mentorship, while at the same time providing employers with a steady source of highly trained and productive workers,” the report states. “These programs have the potential to grow into a critical and successful component of America’s workforce strategy, but are currently underutilized. Meanwhile, the American higher education system is churning out a pool of in-debt job seekers who are not equipped to meet the skills needs of many employers in the modern American economy.”

The task force was formed in response to President Donald Trump’s June 2017 Executive Order 13801, Expanding Apprenticeships in America, targeting strategies to promote apprenticeships, especially in sectors where related programs are insufficient. It was divided into four subcommittees, each offering observations centered on “Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship” programs:

Education and Credentialing. Recommends that programs expand traditional work-and-learn models to achieve higher levels of employer engagement and better outcomes; include work-based learning and performance assessment; and, feature national recognition and portability of standards-based, industry-recognized credentials, the requirements for which should be articulated by the public-private sector partners. 

Attracting Business to Apprenticeship recommends simplified program funding by updating federal funding criteria, streamlining state grant access, and exploring sector-led financial options. Also proposes that Labor Department, along with other federal agencies and industry groups, conduct and make available a needs analysis to identify existing skills shortages and quantify the benefits of apprenticeships in meeting labor challenges.

Expanding Access, Equity, and Career Awareness recommends a federally funded brand apprenticeship awareness campaign and that agencies take steps to expand access to and incentivize the use of an “earn-and-learn” model. The Labor Department should implement clear guidelines and fund community-based organization efforts, while certifiers and sponsors develop comprehensive outreach strategies. 

Administrative and Regulatory Strategies to Expand Apprenticeship recommends a pilot project in an industry without well-established Registered Apprenticeship programs. It should focus on mastery and competency, not just seat-time or training hours, and have implementation guidelines spelling out quality standards. Participants in construction apprenticeship programs should not be considered as apprentices for the purpose of meeting the Davis-Bacon Act wage requirements, nor required to follow specific wage progression rules.

“The current half a million apprentices are simply not enough to fill the more than 6 million unfilled jobs at U.S. companies in today’s labor market,” says Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. “This thoughtful, practical strategy will make 2018 an inflection point that helps solve today’s labor market challenges and creates the workforce of the future.”

“Apprenticeships give students proven and meaningful ways to gain skills and kickstart fulfilling careers,” adds U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. “We must continue our efforts to strengthen workforce readiness and increase the number of pathways available to students after high school.” 

In a Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion final report presentation letter, she acknowledges “the speed with which the Task Force came to the unanimous agreement that the negative stigmatization of apprenticeship must come to an end, and that a traditional college education and modern-day apprenticeship are no longer mutually exclusive education options. A four-year degree is a good way—but not the only way—to cultivate one’s talents, fulfull one’s passions and enjoy a lifetime of career opportunity and success … My goal is to help all Americans understand that work-based learning adds an important new dimension to the education tool kit—one that is engaging for learners, cost effective for employers and starts to tackle the growing problem of rising student load debt.”

 

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