Bill would provide states with grants to expand apprenticeships

Mid-State Technical College President Shelly Mondeik (at podium) kicks off a roundtable discussion with Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) about apprenticeships. (Photos: MSTC)

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) has introduced legislation to boost workforce readiness by expanding apprenticeship programs and investing in public-private partnerships.

Baldwin unveiled the PARTNERS (Pairing Apprenticeships with Regional Training Networks to meet Employer Requirements) Act last Friday during a visit to Mid-State Technical College in Wisconsin.

“In Wisconsin, I’ve seen how public-private partnerships can best address the workforce readiness challenges we face,” said Baldwin in a statement. “This new legislation will scale up our apprenticeship programs and provide more people with the skills they need to succeed. If we invest in public-private partnerships, we can boost workforce readiness and provide our businesses the skilled workers they need to grow our economy.”

Businesses — especially small and medium-sized businesses — often lack the infrastructure to establish apprenticeships or work-based learning programs on their own, Baldwin said. Her bill aims to establish a program to provide states with grants to help create or expand local public-private partnership apprenticeship initiatives.

Creating public-private teams

Through the bill, states would submit funding applications to the U.S. labor secretary for local initiatives to start or expand apprenticeships. The states would then provide grants of up to $500,000 for two years to local public-private partnerships to bring industry and education partners together to start and run work-based training programs, as well as worker support services that help businesses develop apprenticeship initiatives.

Apprenticeships have become a center point for both Republican and Democratic efforts to provide job training for available positions. In June, the president signed an executive order to provide resources to expand on public-private partnerships for apprenticeships. However, his budget proposal for the coming fiscal year calls to eliminate federal funding for apprenticeships; congressional plans call to retain the funding.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (right) is given a tour of Mid-State Technical College’s workforce training programs. (Photos: MSTC)

Last week, U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta told the American Association of Community Colleges board of directors that apprenticeship programs jointly developed by community colleges and businesses – and scaled up on a nationwide basis – could go a long way toward closing the nation’s skills gap.

This week, the National Governors Association released a report on strengthening the federal-state partnership on workforce development and training, which included expanded innovative strategies and apprenticeships.

The number of registered apprentices increased by about 35 percent to more than 500,000 from 2013 to 2016, according to the U.S. Labor Department. However, advocates note that more such programs are needed — including work-based learning and career and technical education — to help employers find skilled workers for available jobs.

DataPoints: Electricians and plumbers are among top-sought apprenticeship positions.

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