We’re Fired Up about Apprenticeships
You know how you can say a word over and over, on repeat, so many times that it stops sounding like a word?
That happened to me last Thursday and Friday at the Apprenticeship Forward conference in Washington, D.C.
The word? Energy.
Apprenticeship is big-tent business, and the tent continues to expand. It’s drawing in new champions from the business and philanthropic communities every day, linking their resources to those of state and local workforce agencies, education partners like community colleges and school districts, industry associations, unions and other apprenticeship sponsors.
This kind of massive mobilization is where energy comes from: motivated actors with innovative ideas feeding off of one another, pushing each other to succeed. People are revved up. People are excited. We all felt it, and that’s why everyone hit on the same word to describe it. We’ve gotten far enough along now in our recent efforts to revitalize apprenticeship that we can see how well it’s working for families, communities and our economy. After investments of over $265 million in the past two years, we are seeing those efforts bear fruit. The growth of apprenticeships alone is striking: 1,700 new apprenticeship programs were established nationwide in fiscal year 2016, and more than 206,000 individuals nationwide entered the apprenticeship system that year.
Apprenticeships change lives and help businesses grow. We saw this in a Thursday session, where apprentices told their story, to wild cheers and applause. We have the opportunity to do a lot of good for a lot of people, through our efforts to diversify apprenticeships, to bring apprenticeships to communities hard hit by economic declines, and to help business advance in competitiveness and workforce retention.
There are, of course, some areas where various stakeholders have differing views on the finer points of how to build a robust, agile, growing apprenticeship system throughout the country. But for many of us, the core advantages are clear, and I left the conference itching to preach those advantages to anyone who’ll listen:
- Apprenticeship is a winning workforce development business strategy for companies and provides a strong return on investment: A recent Department of Commerce study indicates that the return on investment for business is approximately $1.50 for every $1 invested with a range of benefits from reduced turnover to greater productivity from apprentices.
- Apprenticeship creates a pathway to skilled, middle-class jobs for American workers: Nearly 9 out of 10 apprentices are employed after completing their apprenticeships, with an average starting wage of more than $60,000 per year. Over the course of their careers, apprentices earn over $300,000 more in wages and benefits than their peers who do not participate in Registered Apprenticeship programs.
- Apprenticeships allow more Americans to participate in a growing economy: Apprenticeship can revitalize whole communities by bringing well paying jobs to a diverse untapped talent pool, and has a proven success rate at decreasing youth unemployment in countries with strong apprenticeship systems like Germany and Switzerland.
- Apprenticeship is a great investment for the public sector: A 2012 Mathematica evaluation of 10 states found that every dollar invested in apprenticeship led to $27 in tax returns and more than $35 in total benefits. The public also benefits by leveraging private sector investments in training, estimated at over $1 billion per year.
A question I received at a panel on Friday stuck with me through the weekend: “2015 was an historic year for apprenticeships. 2016 was an historic year for apprenticeships. Will 2017 be an historic year for apprenticeships?” We’re still setting the table for the specific actions we’ll be taking this year, but with the support of Secretary Acosta, I can say with confidence that it will be – we’re 100 percent committed to moving apprenticeship forward, together.
If you’d like to learn more about exploring opportunities to be an apprentice, or if you’re an employer who would like to find out how apprenticeship can work for you, please visit https://www.dol.gov/featured/apprenticeship.
John Ladd is the director of the Office of Apprenticeship.