Millions of apprentices have been trained over the past 75 years through the U.S. Department of Labor, but 2017 saw an invigorated call to action.
Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff challenged the nation to create 5 million apprenticeships in just five years, a concept receiving bipartisan support and endorsement from the White House, to strengthen the nation’s workforce.
It is a lofty goal, given that data showed approximately 500,000 apprentices in 2016, but it is a crucial strategy needed to close the “skills gaps,” which threaten to limit the expansion of the U.S. economy; to address the millions of individuals who are unemployed or underemployed; to mitigate stagnant wages held back by flat levels of productivity; and to fight mounting levels of student debt.
Given this “moonshot mandate,” partnerships will be ever more important in hitting the mark. The Advance Michigan Center for Apprenticeship Innovation, led by the Southeast Michigan Community Alliance and Workforce Intelligence Network, has brought together community colleges, local and regional companies, and workforce/economic development partners to greatly expand registered apprenticeships across 13 counties in Southeast Michigan.
Collaboratively among reputable partners, AMCAI is setting standards to support employers to launch and sustain registered apprenticeships. The registration and implementation processes, perceived as onerous by many business owners, has been streamlined by AMCAI to help eliminate a significant barrier to launch and create win-win opportunities for employers and potential apprentices.
Developing a DOL registered apprenticeship is important, as the formalized process sets a high expectation for the employer, educational providers, and apprentices. Further, the process helps ensure quality standards are set for apprentices to receive mentorship, classroom instruction, and hands-on experience to make a positive impact in boosting productivity in the workforce. Additionally, registered apprenticeships provide employers with scalability, consistent data on performance, and return on investment (ROI). For apprentices, in addition to a full-time job with an increasing wage and no student loan debt, individuals gain a nationally-recognized DOL credential, transferable skills, and opportunities to advance once their apprenticeship is complete
This level of detail demanded in registered apprenticeship becomes especially significant as various partners work collaboratively to dispel the misconception that many school counselors, parents, and potential apprentices have toward the standard perception of an apprenticeship model that rewarding occupations are only available through a bachelor’s degree career pathway, or that apprenticeable positions are confined to labor-intensive occupations. Apprenticeship has gone from high skills to high skills and high tech, and continues to grow in “non-traditional” industries, such as information technology and health care, leading to high-paying careers that do not require a traditional four-year college degree.
Employers have misconceptions about apprenticeship as well, and have expressed concern that their level of investment in developing workplace talent will not be reciprocated, or that the implementation costs will be too significant. However, apprenticeship is a proven, cost-saving option for employers to grow their own talent, and for workers to gain in-demand skills needed for the jobs of the future. For every dollar spent on an apprenticeship, employers receive an average of $1.47 back in increased productivity, though some industries – such as millwrights or sheet metal workers – see even greater returns, up to $5 for every dollar spent. More data showing similar ROI for employers and wage progression for apprentices for a growing list of different occupations can be found using the apprenticeship ROI calculator on the AMCAI website.
Though progress continues, there is work to do in getting businesses and individuals excited about how apprenticeship can help resolve the skills gap. Through thoughtful collaboration among stakeholders in Michigan’s economy and workforce, we can improve our capabilities to significantly train and increase Michigan’s skilled and trained workforce across all industries as a region, a state and a nation. Our future depends on it.
For all apprenticeship needs and questions related to employers, individuals interested in becoming apprentices, and anyone seeking to learn more, visit AMCAI’s recently launched apprenticeship web hub at MIApprenticeship.org. You can also call the Apprenticeship Hotline at (734) 229-3559.
This article was originally posted on the Michele Economou Ureste Crain’s blog