There is a growing issue facing manufacturers in California and across the country, a shortage of skilled employees that currently sits at 600,000 jobs unfilled and likely to grow in the coming years.
The current average age for a skilled manufacturing employee is 56 years old and as these employees reach their retirement age, there will be a huge void left from their departure.
Earn and Learn
“Earn and learn” training models are being looked at as a possible solution to this growing problem. These models connect low-skilled adult workers and youths entering the workforce to new employment opportunities with access to training and education, allowing workers to earn a paycheck while developing the skills necessary to transform short-term jobs into longer-term career pathways.
One of the most popular forms of “earn and learn” that is gaining renewed popularity is the training model known as apprenticeship. Apprenticeship training is a time-tested, on-the-job training and education delivery system. It is designed to bring frontline workers, who are often unemployed or displaced, into secure high-skill jobs that offer strong wage progression.
In California, these programs are designed and conducted by program sponsors, who may be individual employers, employer associations or a jointly-sponsored labor/management association. Local Education Agencies (LEAs) individually contract with program sponsors providing educational leadership in the provision of related and supplemental educational. (Source: California Workforce Investment Board)
Apprenticeships are considered a win for employers, employees and the state. What makes these programs so effective is that apprentices earn wages and benefits and pay taxes while they learn in a combination of supervised, paid on-the-job training, based upon industry standards, coordinated with related classroom instruction provided by a local educational agency.
Typically, an apprenticeship program can take from three to six years of classroom and on-the-job training while working beside an experienced journeyperson. During this time, apprentices are typically paid at 40-50% of a skilled worker’s wage with regular raises. Upon completion of the program, apprentices can earn $35 or more per hour depending upon the particular trade.
Generally, to apply for an apprenticeship, an applicant must:
- Be 18 years of age
- Have a high school diploma or the equivalent
- Possess the aptitude, interest, and physical ability to succeed
- Be willing to work in the environment of the craft or trade
- Have good math skills
Pre-Apprenticeship Programs Are a Key
Apprenticeship programs are rigorous and often rely on “pre-apprenticeship training” that aligns with their program needs to ensure that applicants have the basic necessary skills as well as a solid educational background necessary to meet the application requirements. Pre-apprenticeships are available in some California high schools. High school classes containing the components of computer graphics, mechanical drawing, blueprint reading, drafting, electricity, welding, chemistry, and higher math are valuable.
There are also pre-apprenticeship instructional programs that provide students with an introduction to multiple trades to help prospective apprenticeship program applicants to identify interests and aptitudes necessary for success. Pre-apprenticeship programs play a significant role in developing a skilled and diverse workforce.
In the State of California, there are currently 1,400 programs serving 73,000 apprentices. There are 800 recognized apprenticeship occupations including the following industries:
- Public Administration
- Retail Trade
(Source: California Career Center)
For employers there are many benefits to looking at apprenticeships as a solution to their skilled labor needs including:
- Skilled training geared towards industry/employer specifications.
- Increased productivity and knowledge transfer provided by well-structured on-the-job learning.
- Greater employee retention.
- A stable pipeline of skilled workers.
- Better workmanship
- Greater employee skills
- An emphasis on safety training may lead to lower worker’s compensation insurance rates
If this sounds like a good deal for your company, the first place to start is to connect with the State of California Department of Industrial Relations. They will be your first step in understanding how these types of programs work, and if they might be a fit for your company.