Manufacture This

The blog of the Alliance for American Manufacturing

Learning and earning makes a lot of economic sense.

America has always lagged behind comparable economies in the creation of apprenticeships for youth.

Not only do apprenticeships strengthen our nation’s workforce, but they expedite economic development. Quality programs allow students to earn a wage while getting hands on experience in a range of areas in addition to learning in the classroom. And, depending on the program, states usually waive the student’s tuition, which is another plus considering the student-loan debt crisis.

That’s why a nonpartisan think tank, New America, launched the Partnership to Advance Youth Apprenticeship (PAYA). New America defines PAYA as “an initiative designed to support the growth and success of emerging and existing youth apprenticeship partnerships in cities and states across the United States.”

South Carolina and Colorado, for example, have made it a mission to increase youth apprenticeships over the past few years. Other states are following suit by launching their own pilot programs.

Charleston, South Carolina moved away from traditional approaches to apprenticeships into an innovative approach including public and private sector actors. The history of Charleston, SC, which was once a slave port, has rooted economic and education disparities that are still present today. Youth apprenticeships there have become an opportunity to help disrupt that cycle, said a panel at PAYA.

In the Rockies, meanwhile, CareerWise Colorado, is building a statewide system of youth apprenticeships that create pathways for students to access high-demand, high-paying careers at leading Colorado companies. This program charges employers a fee to help fund the program. CareerWise’s program is working to be self-sufficient to refrain from becoming a government program or using government funds, so government money can instead go toward education.

Kelly M. Schulz, Maryland’s Department of Labor secretary, described how apprenticeships furthered economic development for Maryland while educating the upcoming generation. Effective apprenticeships require attention from all parts of the spectrum, Schulz said, including government agencies, nonprofits, businesses of all capacities, and communities.

The more we can talk about creating an individualized, specific workforce of the future for very specific industries and very specific companies within those industries, and they can have that retention plan to be able to grow … that adds an economic development advantage to the state of Maryland. Kelly M. Schulz

In North Carolina, the state's definition of “employee” includes apprenticeships; i.e. apprentices may lawfully receive workers compensation. here are programs like ApprenticeshipNC, which is a state apprenticeship agency to support apprenticeships and on-the-job learning programs. Community College tuition is waived for high school students participating in Registered Apprenticeships and CTE Pathway programs. Many of North Carolina’s registered apprenticeships are supported by a network of grants and money from employers.

There are national programs out there, too. Urban Alliance creates a bridge between youth and the businesses they work for to prevent disconnect by building relationships, meeting students where they are. A case manager, or program coordinator, stays with the apprentice from high school into post-secondary education programs, if they choose to continue their education. This initiative supports youth during the transition which ultimately benefits everyone, as well as increasing program completion.

Although high-quality apprenticeships appear to demonstrate positive outcomes, there is always room for improvement. Challenges that apprenticeship programs and apprentices commonly face, include sustainable funding, transportation, alignment of educational credits among levels of education, capacity of employers, and capacity of community colleges. 

But with more resources comes improvement, and there are still more states following suit by launching pilot apprenticeship programs. Like this one: New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy recently announced $4.5 million in grants to develop and grow apprenticeships. New Jersey’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development is offering a technical assistance workshop to help people apply for the Growing Apprenticeships in Nontraditional Sectors (GAINS) program next week in Trenton.

Are you interested, and in the Garden State? Sign up right here to attend.