Connor Langer and Colin Hesley are the first apprentices in Viracon’s (Owatonna, Minnesota) new registered apprenticeship program created through the Minnesota Apprenticeship Initiative. Viracon is a manufacturer of architectural glass.
To run a successful, thriving, competitive business, companies both large and small need a diverse pool of talented and knowledgeable employees. Registered apprenticeships offer a viable career pathway for workers from all backgrounds to acquire good-paying jobs and help successful businesses grow. Skilled workers who have completed apprenticeships not only help local businesses prosper in our states − Minnesota and Maryland − they also help create a strong economy and a better quality of life for working families. Since September 2015, the U.S. Department of Labor has made unprecedented federal investments – more than $235 million – to help grow apprenticeship in America, and ensure that these earn-while-you-learn opportunities are open to more people. On Oct. 21, the department announced an additional $50.5 million in state expansion grants, another major investment by this administration to expand apprenticeship throughout the country. At the state level, we are not only supportive … as Secretary of Labor Tom Perez has said, we are “all-in” on apprenticeship. In Minnesota and Maryland our focus is simple; increase apprenticeship opportunities for our workforce to acquire the skills they need to enter well-paying careers.
Maryland Labor Secretary Kelly Schulz tries her hand at auto mechanics at Holmatro USA in Glen Burnie. Holmatro uses apprenticeship to train highly skilled workers.
Minnesotans know that a well-prepared workforce is key to their economic future. Through our Minnesota Apprenticeship Initiative, we’re using a $5 million federal grant awarded in 2015 to engage over 100 employers to recruit and train 1,000 new apprentices in 30 occupations over the next five years. The initiative is modeled on the award-winning and innovative Minnesota PIPELINE Project, which brought together leaders in four industries — advanced manufacturing, agriculture, health care and information technology — to establish 22 different occupational competencies. Minnesota also awards incentive grants to help employers combine formal education with on-the-job training to give their employees an opportunity to attain in-demand skills. And by focusing on recruitment and retention of underrepresented populations, the state’s construction unions, working with Minnesota’s Department of Labor and Industry, have increased the percentage of apprentices in construction who are women and minorities from 17 percent in 2011 to 27 percent in 2016.
Apprentices who worked on the construction of Minneapolis’ U.S. Bank Stadium recently toured the facility with U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez and state officials. From left: Brandi Williams, second-year electrical apprentice; Erin Swetland, third-year plumbing apprentice; Vicki Sandberg, apprenticeship coordinator of Build Minnesota; April Williams, second year sheetmetal apprentice; RaShida Jenkens, journeyworker laborer; and Dan McConnell and Jenny Winkelaar, Minneapolis Building Trades Council.
In Maryland, increasing industry and employers’ access to a skilled workforce is priority No. 1. Maryland is investing in the future of the state’s workers by investing in registered apprenticeships, with the goal of having 9,500 apprentices by the end of 2016 – up from 7,186 in 2012. Our “Apprenticeship Maryland” youth pilot program is working with two Maryland school systems to provide students with an opportunity to enter high-skill, high-growth industries such as health care, biotechnology, information technology, construction and design, banking and finance, and advanced manufacturing. The Apprenticeship Maryland youth initiative is designed to cultivate the talent businesses need to expand and maintain the state’s highly-skilled workforce, while providing students on-the-job training and a potential career pathway. Whether you are a medical coder, accounting technician, aircraft mechanic, or a computer programmer, on-the-job training and practical experience are essential tools in building a skilled workforce and strong middle class. The ApprenticeshipUSA system today is a network of more than 150,000 employers in more than 1,000 occupations. And 91 percent of apprentices across the country are employed after completing their programs, with an average starting salary over $60,000. Through registered apprenticeship programs and initiatives, we are offering our residents a path to a sustainable career, an affordable education and the ability to provide for their families. In short, an opportunity to live the American dream. Kelly Schulz is the Maryland secretary of labor, licensing, and regulation. Ken Peterson is the commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry.