Jessica Cunningham started off on the path we traditionally see as the “right path” – graduating from high school and going off to college. But she quickly realized that the courses she was taking weren’t leading her in the right direction – and on top of that, it was a major strain on her finances. That all changed when she discovered the Urban Technology Project.
A partnership between the School District of Philadelphia and the Communities in Schools of Philadelphia, UTP offers a unique opportunity to connect young people with hands on learning opportunities through a computer support specialist registered apprenticeship program. The apprentices receive work-based training and gain industry-recognized credentials in information technology while earning solid wages. As Jessica told me:
“The program allowed me to gain real career experience from professional mentors. I did not know that software development was a passion of mine until the program introduced me to two experienced developers and gave me capacity to learn from them.”
Shortly after her training, Jessica was hired as a program manager at Jarvus Innovations, a Philadelphia-based mobile and web software development firm. Today, as Jarvus’ Director of Operations, Jessica makes a good salary and has a vibrant career ahead of her.
Jessica’s apprenticeship helped her punch her ticket to the middle class – it’s why I like to call apprenticeships “the other 4-year degree.” The Labor Department’s Registered apprenticeships are a tried and true earn-while-you-learn training model that offers hands-on training and classroom education — all without incurring any debt. In fact, research shows that the average apprenticeship graduate earns a starting salary of $50,000 and will earn $300,000 more over the course of their career than their peers who don’t complete an apprenticeship.
As I travel around the country, I hear from employers who are bullish about the economy and want to grow their business — but need a pipeline of skilled talent to make it happen. Though currently underutilized in the United States, apprenticeship programs can play a valuable role in creating those pipelines. Partnerships like UTP are a great example of how apprenticeships can be used to meet the growing needs of employers.
That’s why I’m proud to announce the formal launch of the $100 million American Apprenticeship Grant competition. This is the largest single federal investment in apprenticeship ever in the U.S. And it will help transform our workforce for the 21st century.
Through this grant, the department will expand apprenticeships from the traditional skilled trades to new high-tech, high-demand industries like healthcare, IT, advanced manufacturing, and others. These grants will help programs that create career pathways and align with post-secondary education – so apprenticeships are never an either/or proposition between starting out on an exciting career path and getting an education. And the grants will encourage strong public-private partnerships to ensure these apprenticeships are sustainable for the long run.
Apprenticeships are essential to building tomorrow’s workforce and strengthening the middle class, like it did for Jessica. By working together — by adapting and transforming the model to 21st century realities — we can make this tool more effective than ever.
For more information on how to apply for an American Apprenticeship Grant, visit www.dol.gov/Apprenticeship.