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Manufacturing Apprenticeships—Are You Ready to Excel?

“Far too many individuals today find themselves with crushing student debt and no direct connection to jobs.” That’s the last line of Section 1 of the June 15, 2017, presidential executive order on expanding apprenticeships in America. The “Expanding Apprenticeships in America” executive order is part of the Trump administration’s attempt to align federally funded education and workforce development programs with job skills that are in demand. The order specifically notes the need to train American workers for positions that are open today, “including the 350,000 manufacturing jobs currently available.”

In this vein, the president has tasked the Secretary of Labor, in consultation with the Secretaries of Education and Commerce, to find ways to promote the development of apprenticeship programs by third parties, such as industry groups, individual companies and unions. While the executive order gets into the weeds on how third parties will be qualified and rewarded, it also signals a move desperately needed by the manufacturing industry, which today increasingly requires a degree of technical capability or other specialization.

The federal agencies have been instructed to look for ways to make apprenticeships available to a wide swath of potential employees—including high school and college students, former convicts, military personnel and those on public assistance. While federal funding may be available, creative financial resources will be crucial, and dovetailing on-the-job learning experiences with both paid work and school credit or licensing will be necessary to make the programs appealing. Through cutbacks in dysfunctional and wasteful job-training programs at the federal level, the administration expects to be able to bolster apprenticeship funding to $200 million from $90 million currently.

It may be time for manufacturers to take apprenticeships to the strategy team for a thorough evaluation on costs of implementation and prospective return on the investment. A 2009 Canadian study found a 47-cent-on-the-dollar net return on apprentice training and said every dollar government invests in such programs yields $27 in economic growth.

The expansion of industry-certified apprenticeship programs, as opposed to federally planned and implemented programs, is meant to streamline training and make it more germane to specific needs at specific companies, a kind of principle of subsidiarity whereby the most local organization has the most authority over the program. The Secretary of Labor will be requesting public comments on the regulations proposed under the executive order.

“Successful apprenticeship programs work best when designed by employers around their own needs,” Nicholas Wyman, CEO of the Institute for Workplace Skills and Innovation, writes in Fortune. Welders, electricians, machinists, robotics programmers, plumbers, computer technicians and other skilled tradesmen earn above-average incomes and have job security, Wyman says. This is a program that is needed by manufacturers today. But it’s not only manufacturers who need it; people, Americans, need a successful apprenticeship system.

The Art of Manliness posted a compelling review of man’s relevance in the new world of technology that looks at the effects of the obsolescence of men. The author didn’t touch upon the social value of apprenticeships, but President Trump did in his announcement of the apprenticeship program when he emphasized the “dignity of work.” Apprenticeships are not only a means to provide job skills; they are also a pathway to making lifelong contributions to society. Manufacturers have a preeminent role to play in this endeavor. Planning for your involvement in this movement begins now.

Precision Manufacturing Insurance Services (PMIS) is committed to the growth and success of the manufacturing industry. We are specialists in insuring manufacturers and metal service centers and distributors throughout California, and can provide you with property insurance, general liability, commercial auto and workers’ comp coverages to protect your business, as well as HR assistance and the loss control services to help manage your risk. Give us a call at 855.910.5788.


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