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Apprenticeship Programs Help Fill Skilled-Labor Gaps

By Will Barclay

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In 2017, President Trump set a goal to double the number of apprenticeships in the U.S. because there is a great need for skilled laborers — in construction, manufacturing, and other industries — due to retiring baby boomers. AARP estimates that 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 each day — a trend that will continue into the 2030s. Businesses are in need of reliable, skilled employees who can fill the gaps left by retirees. The apprenticeship program is one solution.

From our nation’s early industrial beginnings, apprentices have been guided and trained by experienced workers who share their knowledge and industry skills with the next generation of workers. It has proven helpful in integrating new workers in a job setting, allows the apprentice to become familiar with equipment and technology, and allows businesses to fill jobs that need to be filled. The workforce-development apprenticeship program aims to expand these opportunities for workers and allow them to learn a valued skill while being paid. The on-the-job training includes the opportunity to take classes or training courses which helps an individual secure a long-term career in a variety of fields such as construction, health care, advanced manufacturing, and software development.

Apprenticeships are created through partnerships with businesses and industry leaders and are funded by the New York State Department of Labor. Employers, local unions, business organizations, nonprofit organizations, or groups of employers may apply for an apprenticeship through the State Department of Labor. With each apprenticeship, there is a contract between the apprentice and the employer and that contract is registered with the New York State Department of Labor. Wages are subsidized by the New York State Labor Department. For businesses with fewer than 100 employees, up to 75 percent of the apprentice’s wage is paid for by the program. For businesses with more than 100 employees, up to 50 percent of the wages are paid. Additionally, classes and training materials are typically paid for by the program. Each apprenticeship has its own standard training outline which details the on-the-job training and classroom instruction requirements. Apprentices work full time, operate under supervision of a skilled worker, and are paid on a graduated pay scale. The length for each varies anywhere from one to six years.

Because the apprentice is closely integrated with the business, educational institutions, and other industry partners, the job-placement rate is high. Nearly 9 out of 10 apprentices are employed after completing their apprenticeship, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. In addition, there are great wages to be had. After completing an apprenticeship, the average starting salary is $60,000 a year. In New York, apprenticeship opportunities have increased in part thanks to a $4.2 million grant the state received from the U.S. Department of Labor in 2017 and other recruitment efforts. In December 2017 there were 16,717 apprentices in this state, and that grew to 18,334 by August 2018.

The New York Department of Labor’s site lists apprenticeships available in different regions of the state. Classroom-related instruction is fulfilled through a trade school, local college, or through a BOCES program. At the successful completion, the Department of Labor awards the apprentice with a “Certificate of Completion.” This is a nationally recognized credential.

Our talented, skilled workforce is an asset to our region but locally, businesses need more workers who are interested in long-term careers with opportunity for advancement. Occupations found within the skilled-labor workforce provide long-standing careers for many local residents and these high-paying jobs can support a whole family. To find more information about these jobs and the apprenticeship program, visit https://labor.ny.gov/apprenticeship/general/occupations.shtm or call the Department of Labor’s Syracuse office at (315) 479-3228, or reach out to the local unions. The local Plumbers and Steamfitters Union, UA Local 73, has information on its apprenticeships at https://www.ualocal73.net/apply-to-be-a-member/. You can also find information for businesses on how to become part of the apprenticeship program and a new apprenticeship tax credit being made available to businesses effective this tax year, by visiting: https://labor.ny.gov/apprenticeship/empire-state-tax-credit.shtm       

William (Will) A. Barclay is the Republican representative of the 120th New York Assembly District, which encompasses most of Oswego County, including the cities of Oswego and Fulton, as well as the town of Lysander in Onondaga County and town of Ellisburg in Jefferson County. Contact him at barclaw@assembly.state.ny.us or (315) 598-5185.

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