Several states expanding apprenticeships.

By Bryan Wilson, March 25, 2014

To close the skills gap, state elected officials are engaging in new efforts to expand apprenticeships and other forms of work-based learning. Governors, state legislators, and even political candidates are turning to one of the oldest, and best, models of training in order to build the skills pipeline for tomorrow.

Last year, Wisconsin enacted legislation appropriating $500,000 to expand the number of youth apprenticeships by 555. Wisconsin’s youth apprenticeship program has long been recognized as a successful skills training model. In addition, Wisconsin will also reimburse workers and employers for tuition paid as part of apprenticeship programs.

Two governors are also providing support for the expansion of apprenticeships. In January, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad proposed tripling state funding for Iowa’s apprenticeship programs from $1 million to $3 million. His proposal would also shift administration of the grants from community colleges and the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) to solely the IEDA.

With the support of Governor Steve Beshear, Kentucky became the latest state to join Germany’s Skill Initiative in March. The Initiative, based on the German “dual system,” combines equal parts classroom instruction and on-the-job training. As part of the Initiative, the German Embassy helps to bring together German and American firms with education and training providers in order to establish training programs for manufacturing workers. According to the Governor’s Office, “more than 150 Kentucky companies are participating in formalized dual-track training programs, employing hundreds of student workers.”  

State legislators are also introducing new proposals to expand apprenticeships and other work-based learning. For instance, California Assembly Member Freddie Rodriguez has introduced Assembly Bill 1797 that would require the Division of Apprenticeship Standards to identify opportunities to establish apprenticeship programs in health care. The Division would also establish standards for pre-apprenticeship programs and for entry into health care apprenticeship programs. Rodriquez has also sponsored Assembly Bill 1569 that would provide employers with a tax credit of $2,000 for each young employee (between the ages of 16 and 25) in an apprenticeship.

Candidates for elective office are also supporting apprenticeships a part of their campaign platforms. For instance, in Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidates Katie McGinty and Representative Allyson Schwartz have announced plans to expand the number of apprenticeships. Ms. McGinty would invest $3 million and provide $1,000 stipends for apprenticeships. Representative Schwartz pledges to increase the number of apprentices by 10,000.  

It is widely recognized that in the United States apprenticeship is an underutilized model of training. Perhaps with this renewed interest by state elected officials, the U.S. will join other industrial nations in taking advantage of training that combines classroom and on-the-job learning, earning while learning, and standards and certifications designed by employers and workers.