In the US, apprenticeship is gaining momentum as an effective workforce development strategy. Now, Go Virginia Region 3 is strategizing how to leverage this practice across the Region. Nationally and locally, employers from countless industries are in a desperate search for employees with skills that fit their company’s needs. The combination of hands-on experience, classroom training and a paycheck are enticing policymakers and workforce stakeholders to reexamine and reinvigorate apprenticeship efforts.
The Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR) was tasked with helping Region 3 identify best practice models for apprenticeship programs. IALR also engaged the National Fund for Workforce Solutions as part of this research. The organizations visited Virginia facilities like Siemens, Newport News Shipbuilding and Phillip Morris. They also looked at North Carolina-based MSI Specialties, Inc. and, a leading example more than 4,000 miles away, Germany-based auto parts manufacturer Schaeffler. In addition, a survey of employers in the Region 3 footprint was conducted. The study task force learned that the private sector must have a defined workforce need, apprenticeship efforts must be driven by the employer and supported at every level within the company.
In Region 3, during a period from April to September of 2018:
- An average of 2,536 apprenticeship are listed for Virginia, according to the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry (DOLI).
- Region 3 employers offered an average of 74 apprenticeships, representing approximately 2.9% of the total number of active apprenticeship postings in Virginia. Given that Region 3 comprises 4.4% of Virginia’s population, the number of apprenticeships has room to grow, but what’s more significant is that the diversity of apprenticeship positions is lacking and provides additional opportunities for growth.
- There was and is significant opportunity to expand apprenticeships within Region 3.
The Region 3 survey showed that the majority of employers:
- Believe apprenticeships help meet demand for skilled labor and assist with recruitment and retention.
- Do not believe apprenticeships increase accidents, are difficult to establish or take too long.
- Feel uncertain about the cost of apprenticeship, employers currently using apprenticeships provide financial support for related instruction (75%) and wages while attending class (69%), best practices that improve retention.
- Expressed interested in offering apprenticeships in the near term – within three years.
- Expressed interest in a pre-apprenticeship program that begins in the last year of high school.
- Identified more than 75 occupational titles for 200 apprenticeship positions. Manufacturing, Education, and Health & Human Services employers identified the greatest number of positions.
Not only is there interest in apprenticeships at the regional level; indications are that the current federal administration wants to expand apprenticeships and provide funding to support the development of Industry-Recognized Apprenticeships as a parallel to Registered Apprenticeships.
Apprenticeships Critical to Attracting Business from Abroad
As Region 3 works to attract internationally-headquartered companies, it is imperative that it demonstrates the ability to support a robust apprenticeship system and create a mindset shift from viewing apprenticeship as a blue-collar-only training opportunity to a culture that understands apprenticeship as appropriate for a variety of skilled disciplines to include those that require a bachelor’s degree.
Next Steps for Region 3 Apprenticeships
There is a pilot effort currently underway in apprenticeships for industrial maintenance, supported by five manufacturing employers who have expressed interest and support for:
- Pre-apprenticeship that begins in high school
- Standardizing wages during apprenticeship to reduce competition
- Sharing responsibility to promote the program
- Using this pilot to develop an Apprenticeship Consortium, similar to those found in North Carolina.
Region 3 will take the following steps:
- Share report findings with stakeholders
- Identify lead intermediary to facilitate action
- Build employer champions
- Engage with state agencies
- Reach out to surveyed employees
You can read the full report, here.