Apprentices push for investments in work-based learning on Capitol Hill

By Jessica Cardott, April 29, 2019

“People are afraid to go to the doctor,” Jeffrey Bond shared during a meeting at National Skills Coalition earlier this month. “But when you have a community health worker to pick you up at your house and go with you, it’s so comfortable for the client that they begin to trust the health system.”

Jeffrey works at Philadelphia FIGHT, a comprehensive health services organization for people living with HIV/AIDS and those at high risk. He is one of five apprentices* from across the country that attended an NSC fly-in this April to talk to Congress about how work-based learning programs kickstarted their current careers. Jeffrey’s apprenticeship program involved 150 hours of classroom training at Temple University, coupled with on-the-job training through Philadelphia’s 1199C Training & Upgrading Fund. While training, the labor-management partnership in charge of the training provided stipends for transportation and other necessities to minimize barriers to completion.

The apprentices were invited to DC with their employers and their training providers to offer Congress a full picture of how and why business-led training partnerships work for both industry and workers, and strengthen communities in the process. Jeffrey, now a Re-entry Senior Specialist working with people coming home from prison, explained why his fit with the job for which his apprenticeship prepared him was a success; “I’ve been there, so I knew to have patience with them, talk to them, try to build rapport, build relationships…if you don’t build relationships, you don’t know their mind, you don’t know their mentality, so you really can’t help them.” The apprenticeship was able to translate his existing skill set into a career that supports the health and safety of some of Philadelphia’s most vulnerable citizens.

The small group of partners at the fly-in hailed from a wide-range of geographic areas, as well as industries; representatives from automotive manufacturing, hospitality, construction, and healthcare shared with policymakers on Capitol Hill their experience building quality training programs that get workers the skills businesses need. The range of voices allowed Hill staff to see how work-based learning can create opportunity outside of traditional apprenticeship settings, in different regions, and in pursuit of different ends.

“The apprenticeship program gave me an opportunity to keep succeeding,” Jeffrey said. “I was committed to success and being gainfully employed and right after completing the program, I was employed full-time.” Since his recent graduation from the program, Jeffrey has been promoted twice and is currently pursuing an undergraduate degree.

*Advocates were either apprentices or participated in a similar work based learning program.