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Apprenticeships: Matching Employer Needs with Jobs that Pay

By: Sarah Galbally, Secretary of Policy and Planning

March 30, 2017

As Pennsylvania’s workforce ages, many business owners – manufacturers and construction companies among them – are lamenting a burgeoning skills gap. There are simply not enough workers trained and ready to fill skilled trade jobs as older workers retire.

Historically, apprenticeship programs have attracted workers not interested in post-high school education and many apprentices enter the skilled trades because their fathers and grandfathers were tradesmen.

But, over the past few decades, high school students have been pushed toward college-prep and away from vocational technical training as a viable career path, which further increased a need for skilled workers, such as carpenters, electricians, plumbers – occupations still very much in demand.

As Pennsylvania, with its diverse economy grows, both industry and workers of all ages need to see the benefits of apprenticeships that lead to good-paying jobs and a stable career path. Confronted with a jobs gap that exists between the type of jobs people want or understand and the type of jobs that are available, career opportunities exist in manufacturing that have morphed from dark, dirty and dangerous, into bright, clean, and modern, in part, from technological advancements and the workforce’s response to industry demand. From carpentry to mechatronics, apprenticeships can lead the way to jobs that pay.

Governor Wolf sees the need for aligning workforce programs, including apprenticeships, with the needs of employers. He’s listened to the cry of the skills gap and is including a new apprenticeship grant program in his 2017-18 budget.

The grant program – both for those leaving the K-12 education system and those transitioning into a new industry sector (think high-tech) – can receive training aligned to business workforce needs, so workers are not training just to train, but have a job, a career path established.

Governor Wolf’s apprenticeship grant initiative will be funded with revenue recovered by the Department of Community and Economic Development from companies that fail to live up to previous commitments made when they received state assistance.

Businesses can seek grant funding of up to $2,000 for each apprentice employed pursuant to an apprenticeship agreement registered through the Pennsylvania Office of Apprenticeship and Training – an office recently established by Governor Wolf to explore non-traditional apprenticeship opportunities in high-priority industries such as health care and education.

One such program is the first of its kind in the county. The Pennsylvania Apprenticeship & Training Council recently approved an apprenticeship program for entry-level early childhood education teachers working towards their associate’s degree.

The program, sponsored by Philadelphia’s District 1199C Training & Upgrading Fund, establishes a pipeline for low-wage education workers to achieve an associate’s degree from the Community College of Philadelphia while continuing to work full-time. Apprentices will also receive four wage increases during the two-year program, with raises tied to academic and professional progress.

These smart initiatives are helping to swing the apprenticeship pendulum in the right direction – toward helping both workers and employers achieve lasting success.

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