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Apprenticeship programs coming on strong

Last week the U.S. Department of Labor announced that $100 million in grants are available to expand registered apprenticeship programs in high-skilled, high-growth industries like healthcare, biotechnology, information technology and advanced manufacturing. Registered Apprenticeships have long been known as one of the best training models for skilled trades ("earn while you learn"), yet the model remains underutilized in the United States.

Clare Goldsberry

December 19, 2014

4 Min Read
Apprenticeship programs coming on strong

Last week the U.S. Department of Labor announced that $100 million in grants are available to expand registered apprenticeship programs in high-skilled, high-growth industries like healthcare, biotechnology, information technology and advanced manufacturing. Registered Apprenticeships have long been known as one of the best training models for skilled trades ("earn while you learn"), yet the model remains underutilized in the United States. The unprecedented investment will help to transform apprenticeships for the 21st century and serves as a catalyst to increase the use of apprenticeship to meet employer needs in these sectors.

"An apprenticeship is the 'other 4-year degree.' It is a tried and true job training strategy that offers a reliable path to the middle class, with not debt," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez who announced the grant opportunity during a visit to the Urban Technology Project's Information Technology registered apprenticeship program in Philadelphia. "I encourage everyone to apply for this federal grant so that we can significantly scale apprenticeship opportunities for many more Americans in new industries and occupations."

Approximately 25 grants from $2.5 million to $5 million each will be awarded using funds collected from employers who use H-18 visas to hire foreign workers. Programs funded by the Initiative will provide U.S. workers with training to fill jobs that 1) are projected to hire a substantial number of new workers; 2) are being transformed by technology and innovations that require 21st century skills for workers; 3) are new and emerging industries and/or businesses that are projected to grow; or 4) have a significant impact on the economy overall.

Apprenticeship grants will be awarded to public and private partnerships consisting of employers, business associations, joint labor-management organizations, labor organizations, community colleges, local and state governments, and other non-profit organizations. Successful applicants will use the federal funds to develop registered apprenticeship programs that align with other post-secondary education and create career pathways to underrepresented populations including women, young me and women of color, people with disabilities and veterans and transitioning service members.

Pending applications must be submitted by April 30, 2015. The Funding Opportunity Announcement, which includes information of eligibility and how to apply, is available at http://www.grants.gov. Prospective applicants are encouraged to view additional online resources at http://www.dol.gov/apprenticeship/.

Apprenticeship programs must be certified by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). The Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute's (PMMI) recently announced that DOL's Office of Apprenticeship has approved its mechatronics certificate tests as the foundation for mechatronics technician apprenticeships around the country. Created by the PMMI, The Association for Processing and Packaging and the Industrial Maintenance Training Center of North America (IMTC), in cooperation with the Employment and Training Administration of the DOL, the formal guidelines will be listed under the occupation of "mechatronics technician."

According to the release from PMMI, mechatronics is the synergistic application of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, control engineering and computer science in the manufacturing environment. Mechatronics technicians use their skills and knowledge to maintain and repair high-tech equipment ultimately leading to higher productivity and lower downtime for manufacturers.

Employers can use the new [National Guideline Apprenticeship Standards] as part of a formal, DOL-registered apprenticeship program or as a structure for their internal programs," said Maria Ferrante, vice president of education & workforce development for PMMI. "The guidelines provide manufacturers a clear roadmap leading to a skilled workforce and established career paths not must in packaging and processing, but for any U.S. manufacturer. Companies can partner with local community colleges to deliver the curriculum to apprentices."

According to PMMI, this very comprehensive standard is a competency based apprenticeship structured around achieving competency in specific skills, unlike most DOL-sanctioned apprenticeship programs which are time-based, marking a significant departure from past practices.

PMMI's (www.pmmi.org/mechatronics) mechatronics certificates are nationally portable, industry-accepted, third party credentials endorsed by the National Association of Manufacturers' Skills Certification System.

Scott Sheely, executive director of IMTC, added, "We see apprenticeship as the perfect way to blend the skills that are developed using curriculum from training providers and on-the-job training provided by the employer. The PMMI certificates are the gold standard for verifying these skills, a key function in competency-based apprenticeships, and PMMI has been a key partner in getting to where we are today."

About the Author(s)

Clare Goldsberry

Until she retired in September 2021, Clare Goldsberry reported on the plastics industry for more than 30 years. In addition to the 10,000+ articles she has written, by her own estimation, she is the author of several books, including The Business of Injection Molding: How to succeed as a custom molder and Purchasing Injection Molds: A buyers guide. Goldsberry is a member of the Plastics Pioneers Association. She reflected on her long career in "Time to Say Good-Bye."

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