How Apprenticeships are Reshaping Pennsylvania’s Workforce
In Pennsylvania, apprenticeship programs provide opportunities for students, workers, and job seekers to gain the technical skills needed in growing industries while helping employers build diverse, skilled workforces that meet their talent needs. This results in more fulfilled employees and efficient businesses that can continually grow while using modern techniques and practices — making both more sustainable over time. We spoke to Eric Ramsay, Director of the Apprenticeship and Training Office, to learn more about the opportunities apprenticeships provide for employers, future job seekers, and communities.
Why are apprenticeships important?
Many businesses across Pennsylvania are experiencing rapid growth thanks to our stable and diverse economy. With economic growth comes low unemployment rates, which can present a challenge for employers seeking the right talent to fill their open positions. Customized registered apprenticeship programs help recruit and develop highly skilled workers to meet businesses’ talent requirements, providing a paid opportunity to receive hands-on training and instruction for apprentices that results in secure employment. Through these apprenticeship programs, employers can quickly and strategically build a workforce key to supporting growth and expansion — all while reducing turnover, lowering training costs, and improving productivity.
How is Pennsylvania paving the way for a skilled future workforce?
Over the next decade, more than 70 percent of new jobs in Pennsylvania will require science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills. Through Governor Tom Wolf’s PAsmart initiative, Pennsylvanians are gaining real-world skills to meet employers’ needs. In FY18-19, the Wolf Administration is investing $30 million in PAsmart to ensure that our workforce is ready for high-growth, in-demand jobs in STEM fields. Through this investment, the Wolf Administration is dedicating $20 million in funding to enhance STEM and computer science education at all levels, $7 million for growing apprenticeship programs, and $3 million to go towards supporting Industry Partnership grants.
Apprenticeships open the door to many Pennsylvanians through hands-on experience, and the best part is that apprentices are earning as they are learning. As part of PAsmart, Governor Wolf aims to double apprenticeship programs in Pennsylvania. Since the establishment of the Apprenticeship and Training Office in 2016, the office has registered an additional 129 sponsors and 180 apprenticeship programs or occupations. There are currently more than 777 registered apprenticeship programs and 16,832 registered apprentices throughout Pennsylvania. Apprenticeship opportunities are available in various industries, including manufacturing, construction, energy, and transportation, while apprenticeship programs continue to benefit non-traditional industries such as finance, business, IT, telecommunications, hospitality, health care, and energy.
It’s never too early to get started with apprenticeships. Pre-apprenticeship programs are available for students pursuing secondary education. These programs are developed by schools, community organizations, or others and lay the foundation for future apprenticeship opportunities. Like a registered apprenticeship program, each pre-apprenticeship program establishes a connection to an existing apprenticeship program and delivers both hands-on and instructional-based learning. Through these programs, pre-apprentices can earn an industry-recognized credential while having access to support services and career counseling.
What funding is available for apprenticeships?
The Apprenticeship and Training Office will offer grant opportunities periodically for employers to create registered apprenticeship programs for specialized workforce development. The Department of Community & Economic Development (DCED) also offers ongoing apprenticeship grants, including the Pre-Apprentice and Apprenticeship Grant Program. This DCED-funded program can be used to help cover the costs of the formal instruction or classroom requirements associated with registered apprenticeship programs. To qualify, businesses must register their apprenticeship program with the Apprenticeship and Training Office. The program aims to help Pennsylvania employers increase apprenticeship opportunities to help with talent recruitment and workforce development.
Read more about Pennsylvania apprenticeship news and opportunities by visiting the PA Department of Labor & Industry’s website and following the department on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Visit the DCED website to learn about other workforce development resources available for businesses, and join the conversation using the hashtags #ApprenticeshipsInPA, #PAsmart, and #WorkforceinPA.
Eric Ramsay is the Director of the Office of Apprenticeship and Training at the Department of Labor & Industry. He has nearly 20 years of experience in Labor Law Compliance and agency leadership. Mr. Ramsay’s goal is to increase awareness about apprenticeships and the benefits for individuals and employers alike.