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Apprenticeship Initiative Will Build New Generation of Skilled Workers

Image: Apprenticeship Initiative Will Build New Generation of Skilled Workers
W.scott Mcgill | Dreamstime

Thursday, 16 Nov 2017 01:47 PM Current | Bio | Archive

According to a CNN Money story, the average time a "middle skill" job is open in the U.S. is about 40 days -- that's too high, according to Joseph Fuller, a Harvard Business School professor, who says that a normal number would be closer to 20 days.  The general consensus is that fewer Americans have the experience or qualifications for these types of jobs.

There are a number of factors preventing these jobs from getting filled. Experts say that job training programs in the U.S. remain lackluster compared to the country's global peers in Europe and Asia.

Back in June of this year, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to substantially increase the number of U.S. apprenticeships from the current 500,000 (minuscule for the size of the economy) by doubling the amount the government spends on apprenticeship programs.

Fortune magazine notes that “Trump’s emphasis on this plan is cause for optimism that he will significantly improve the number and quality of apprenticeships in the economy.”

A Wall Street Journal story added that apprenticeships are an underused form of workforce training compared to European countries and have a proven record of good outcomes for workers.

For example, in Switzerland, where 70 percent of teenagers participate in apprenticeships, the system provides employers with a steady stream of trained, experienced workers.

Forbes notes that thanks in large part to its apprenticeship programs, the unemployment rate for German youth is one of the lowest in any of the world’s advanced economies: 6.5 percent as of January 2017, compared to an estimated 11.5 percent in the U.S.

Even in the U.S., according to The Wall Street Journal, the Labor Department estimates that nine in 10 Americans who complete apprenticeships land a job and their average starting salary is $60,000 a year.

These are the kinds of jobs we should be creating, not the minimum wage fast food jobs that the Obama administration touted as sign of a robust employment picture. It wasn’t.

U.S. News notes that apprenticeships differ from internships in that they are employer-funded (the federal money was to help colleges and universities set them up) and more closely tied to students' educations. Apprentices finish the programs with certificates and, in some cases, college degrees — and often with no student loan debt, a major accomplishment in a country staggering under more than $1 trillion in student loans. Employers usually pay apprentices' tuition, and the average starting wage for a registered apprenticeship is about $15 per hour, according to the Department of Labor.

Not to be relegated as a thing of the past, apprenticeships represent a critical opportunity for the U.S. to fill its middle skills jobs gap. Requiring more training than a high school diploma but less than a four-year degree, middle skills positions constitute a full 54 percent of U.S. jobs, according to the International Youth Foundation.

The U.S. has not ignored apprenticeships, training more than 505,000 apprentices in 2016, but that pales to the 13.3 million students enrolled in four-year colleges in 2016, where landing a good job has been increasingly difficult. 

One of the problems that America must face is eliminating the stigma of apprenticeships and change mindsets not only among students, but also with teachers, parents, guidance counselors, and employers.

The International Youth Foundation (IYF) notes that in countries like Germany and Switzerland, young workers view an apprenticeship, where trainees split their days between classroom instruction and time on the job, as a highly respected career move. In fact, roughly 60 percent of young Germans hold apprenticeships.

“In the United States, the recent study From Medieval to Millennial, by nonprofit organization Young Invincibles, found that three key misconceptions dissuade youth from pursuing this track: these young people believe apprenticeship programs don’t currently exist in their communities, are just unpaid internships, and preclude receiving a college degree or viable credentials,” according to IYF. 

One of the current trends in apprenticeships is that about 50 percent are in construction and 20 percent in manufacturing.  As a manufacturer myself, I’d like to see that manufacturing number rise to keep pace with advances in manufacturing technologies requiring workers with advanced training.

Apprenticeship and jobs training initiatives should get the highest priority, coming at a time when the share of Americans participating in the workforce is nearing a four-decade low.

But like many of Trump’s job creation initiatives, this program is being sidelined by Democrats who should be cheering it on, but are instead diverting attention to issues that don’t move the country forward.

Let’s get Americans of all ages back to work – in good paying jobs. It’s the key to having a strong and prosperous country.

Neal Asbury is chief executive of The Legacy Companies.

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According to a CNN Money story, the average time a "middle skill" job is open in the U.S. is about 40 days -- that's too high, according to Joseph Fuller, a Harvard Business School professor, who says that a normal number would be closer to 20 days.
apprenticeship, initiative, build, generation, skilled, workers
Thursday, 16 Nov 2017 01:47 PM
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