The Progressive Ensign

insights and analytics to build an economy that works for all

Category: Apprenticeship

Vocational Programs Match Young Workers with Good Jobs

(Editor Note: Insight Bytes focus on key economic issues and solutions for all of us, on Thursdays we spotlight in more depth Solutions to issues we have identified. Fridays we focus on how to build the Common Good. Please right click on images to see them larger in a separate tab.)

Photo: simplyhelp.org

Companies like CVS, Tesla, Electric Boat and others are working with local high schools and community colleges to train young workers with job skills that translate into good paying jobs. Direct connections between big corporations and local high schools are taking off. Volkswagen is helping schools in Tennessee modernize their engineering programs; Tesla is partnering with Nevada schools on an advanced manufacturing curriculum; and fisheries in Louisiana have created courses for students to train for jobs in “sustainability.”

There are 6.6 million job openings at the end of June 2018, many requiring specific skills in manufacturing, support, sales or materials management are the highest level in a decade.

Source: OECD, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, Brookings Institute – 6/28/17

There are 3.6 million high school students enrolled in career education programs that provide immediate skills to fill job openings in career fields where there is high demand.

Of interest are programs that provide good paying jobs in industries with careers with a future growing into more responsibility and management.  Solar training programs sponsored by the federal government in 2009 worked with 400 local community colleges to try and meet the demand to fill 75,000 solar industry jobs by 2020. Over 30,000 students attended sponsored community college programs funded by the Department of Energy.  Funding for the program ended in several years ago however a new program has been implemented called the Solar Training Network. The Solar Training Network supported by a foundation brings together job seekers, trainers and employers in the industry to fill job demands.

In July the GOP Administration announced a $150 million apprenticeship program to help fill 4 million jobs that are in the apprentice sector for candidates without college degrees, women, ex-offenders and workers of color.  We applauded the program in a post then, but noted that a 40 % cut was included previously in the 2019 budget to a similar program in the Department of Labor – so staying power is a concern.

We are excited to see all these job training programs begin to get the visibility and funding to move ahead.  Though from our perspective with millions left out of the economic mainstream and with millions of jobs to be filled a massive jobs set of programs needs to be carefully designed and funded in the billions of dollars to even begin to come close to meeting the need and having an economic impact.

Apprenticeship Program A Good Step Forward

 

Photo: siemens.com

The Administration has announced a new job training and apprenticeship program focused on many hard to fill positions in manufacturing. The President signed an order to create a Council for the American Worker instructing the secretaries of commerce and labor to coordinate existing federal programs and focus on new apprenticeship programs for job seekers without college degrees and older workers.  Labor Secretary, R. Alexander Acosta noted prior to the announcement that in June 2017 the administration had allocated $150 million in funding to strengthen apprenticeship programs.

Officials from various job development interested groups including unions, corporations,  and trade association officials signed a ‘Pledge to America’s Workers’ committing to the creation of more career opportunities.  Many of the leaders had made previous commitments, though Fed Express announced a new pledge of 512,000 workforce development slots with tuition assistance provided.

While, ‘dual careers’ have been a staple part of German and European education programs in the U.S. the ‘college for all’ mantra has taken its effect discouraging apprentice program candidates. However, many European firms like Zurich Insurance have applied their experience with apprenticeship programs to their U.S. subsidiaries to fill positions and have shared their experience with U.S. based firms like Accenture and Walgreens. Apprenticeships are 4.0% of the workforce in Germany while in the U.S. the total is about 500,000 in skilled trades like plumbing, electrical or metal work, just a small fraction of the U.S. workforce.

Source: The Labor Department, The Wall Street Journal – 2016

American employers are struggling with filling many positions in manufacturing that require special skills but not at the level of a college degree. We expect that as more co-automation jobs are created apprenticeship programs will become the norm to accelerate the number of qualified workers and retrain those workers who lost jobs from automation.

We are pleased to see the GOP Administration move ahead with executing on its pledge to increase the number of apprenticeship training programs and enlist all interested stakeholders in the process. However, this Administration has also announced budget cuts of 40 % to a Department of Labor Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, so making the program work and develop momentum seems challenging given the mixed signals.  We see apprenticeship programs as crucial to expending jobs opportunities for the working class when they are combined with good salaries, benefits and continued training. Education is a bedrock institution to build a thriving society  for all not just the wealthy.

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