Apprentice schools becoming more popular among employers

Industry needs to invest in workforce

Employers are partnering with apprentice schools to ensure a skilled workforce—and showing others how to follow in their footsteps, Lauren Camera writes for U.S. News & World Report.

The National Network, a group of representatives from industries that collectively account for 75% of America's projected job growth by 2020, published a guidebook on Wednesday for others in the field. The book lays out a roadmap for companies that want to begin an apprenticeship program, along with highlighting successful worker-learner partnerships around the country.

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Workplace demographics "will be changing very dramatically," as baby boomers reach retirement age, says Jerri Dickseski, CVP of communications at shipbuilding company Huntington Ingalls. Industry employers benefit from running apprentice schools, helping ensure their future workforce has vocational skills, Dickseski argues. Huntington Ingalls alone spends more than $110 million annually on workforce training and partnership programs.

"If you sit there and wait for the folks to come out of the pipeline without investing in it, then you'll get exactly what you invested," Dickseski says.

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And the workforce is there and ready to learn. One aptly named vocational school, The Apprentice School, has 230 spots for the annual 4,000 applicants—an acceptance rate more selective than any Ivy League college. The school is cost-free, students are paid for their work, and receive benefits like vacation time and free textbooks. And with their skills so high in demand, students are almost guaranteed to graduate into a promising job market.

Vocational programs are becoming more popular. James Miller graduated in 2006 from the College of William and Mary, but poor job prospects during the recession led him to The Apprentice School to find more marketable skills.
"The economy was bad when I graduated and I couldn't really find any steady employment," Miller says.

Apprentice schools can also be a good way for colleges to offer their students hands-on learning, says Dane Linn, VP of the Business Roundtable, which helped launch National Network and contributed to the guide.

"It's about employers sitting down and creating working partnerships with community colleges and others to develop effective programs, and then employers saying, 'I'm willing to set aside 25 slots for apprenticeships,'" Linn explains. "It's not just about textbook learning," (Camera, U.S. News & World Report, 11/18).

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