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Monday through Nov. 18 is recognized as National Apprenticeship Week. More than 700 events are scheduled across the nation to promote registered apprenticeship programs and opportunities. Recently, the 81st anniversary of the passage of the National Apprenticeship Act (also known as the Fitzgerald Act), which directed the U.S. Department of Labor to work with industry and states to promote registered apprenticeship programs across the country, has enabled more than 500,000 active registered apprentices to move ahead in their career pathways.

The "earn-and-learn" work-based learning model stands the test of time and is beneficial both for employers needing skilled talent and job seekers with career growth aspirations. With a network of more than 150,000 employers in more than 1,000 occupations across the nation, apprenticeship is developing a new generation of workers to help our nation succeed in the 21st-century economy.

Apprenticeship works because it is an employer-driven program that prepares an individual for a specific occupation using a structured combination of on-the-job training and related instruction. Basically, an individual is trained to the employer's specifications and receives a marketable credential awarded through the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Apprenticeship.

Apprenticeship is not a new workforce development tool; however, it is evolving to serve a broader audience of industries. For centuries in Germany, Austria, and other European nations, apprenticeships have been the method of choice for "upskilling" new workers in specific trades and occupations.

The registered apprenticeship system in the U.S. dates back to 1937 with the signing of the Fitzgerald Act. It is a proven means of developing entry-level skilled talent and preparing existing workers for higher levels of professional development and productivity. This is advantageous to companies interested in establishing a structured succession-planning system to avert the loss of knowledge and skills through attrition and retirements.

The evolving registered apprenticeship model received a jump-start under the Obama administration in 2015 with the launching of the American Apprenticeship Initiative. The AAI awarded $175 million in American Apprenticeship grants to 46 public-private partnerships through the U. S. Department of Labor.

Arkansas' Department of Workforce Services is the beneficiary of an AAI federal grant award focused on:

• Expanding apprenticeship to new high-tech industries and nontraditional apprenticeship occupations in advanced manufacturing, information technology, health care, banking and finance, etc., and

• Ensuring apprenticeships are available to a diverse population.

Over the last two years, the number of registered apprentices statewide has increased by over 29 percent, with the current number hovering near 6,000.

This growth can be attributed to a solid and expanding base of construction-trade apprenticeships within the state, enhanced by a growing number of nontraditional registered apprenticeship occupations that include software developer, mechatronics, heavy truck driving, police officer, and utility line worker/technician, to name a few.

Apprenticeship is not a replacement for existing business-culture and staffing practices. Rather, the apprenticeship model builds on a business' existing recruitment, onboarding, mentoring, training and advancement systems. The result is a more standardized, replicable, and cost-effective approach that gets results.

Lonnie Emard, former executive at BlueCross BlueShield South Carolina and currently a national subject-matter expert on the expansion of registered apprenticeship, works as a consultant with ADWS.

"An integral part of any company's successful business plan should be the evaluation of apprenticeship as a vital hiring and retention strategy," Emard said. "As a business executive and chief talent officer who has experienced the positive effects of apprenticeship in numerous white-collar occupations, I would encourage Arkansas business and HR leaders to take a closer look at this strategy. It's truly not your father's apprenticeship."

On Thursday, ADWS is partnering with the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce and the North Little Rock Chamber of Commerce to host an Employers Growing Talent through Apprenticeships meeting at the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub in North Little Rock. Information will be shared by Emard and other experts on registered apprenticeship opportunities. If your company is challenged by growing talent to meet workplace productivity expectations, consider attending this free meeting to learn more about registered apprenticeship as a potential solution.

Mark McManus is Project Lead for Discretionary Grants and Business Engagement in the Employment Assistance division of ADWS.

Editorial on 11/11/2018

Print Headline: Not your father's apprenticeship

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