Apprenticeships: Closing the Skills Gap
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced the availability of $100 million in grant funding to engage employers nationwide in creating new apprenticeship opportunities across a wide range of occupations and industry sectors. Eligible grant applicants include, but are not limited to nonprofit trade organizations, industry or employer associations, educational institutions (community colleges and four-year universities), labor unions, and/or labor management organizations.
These grants utilize H-1B funds authorized by Section 414(c) of the American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act of 1998 (ACWIA), as amended, to promote apprenticeships as a significant workforce solution in filling current middle- and high-skilled job vacancies and closing the skills gap between employer workforce needs and the skills of the current workforce. In June 2017, the President issued Executive Order 13801 on Expanding Apprenticeship in America, which lays out an expansive vision for apprenticeship that would increase the number of apprentices in the nation to an unprecedented level across all industries. The overarching goals of this grant program are threefold:
- To accelerate the expansion of apprenticeships to new industry sectors and occupations, such as cybersecurity and those involving artificial intelligence;
- To promote the large-scale expansion of apprenticeships across the nation to a range of employers, including small- and medium-sized employers; and
- To increase apprenticeship opportunities for all Americans.
Women in Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Occupations (WANTO) Grant Program
On August 28, 2019, the Department awarded nearly $1.5 million in grant funding to organizations in Illinois, Virginia, and Wisconsin to recruit, mentor, train, and retain more women in quality apprenticeship programs. The grants will help women pursue careers in manufacturing, infrastructure, cybersecurity, health care, and other industries.
Scaling Apprenticeship Through Sector-Based Strategies
On June 24, 2019, the U.S. Department of Labor awarded $183 million in H-1B funds to support sector-based approaches to expanding apprenticeships on a national scale in key industry sectors. The grants will move a step closer to President Trump’s vision set forth in the Executive Order on Expanding Apprenticeship in America, which calls for increasing the number of apprentices in the U.S. across all industries. With the focus on industries reliant on H-1B visas, the resulting sector-based grant projects will expand apprenticeships and increase the level of apprenticeship activity among a range of new employers within these industries, particularly small- and medium-sized businesses. It also will support efforts to increase access to apprenticeship among all Americans, particularly veterans, military spouses, service members re-entering the civilian workforce, and underrepresented populations in apprenticeship – including women, people of color, and ex-offenders. Learn about the Scaling Apprenticeship through Sector-Based Strategies grant program recipients.
- National Industry and Equity Partners – In Fall 2017, DOL invested approximately $16 million in continuation funding for national industry and equity apprenticeship partners to establish the sector-based partnerships necessary to grow apprenticeship to a significant scale in the United States. Partners have created 94 new apprenticeship programs in 121 new high-demand occupations ranging from software developer to medical coder. This funding has also created job opportunities for 7,800 new apprentices, and spurred employer commitments to hire more than 8,600 additional apprentices in high-demand occupations over the next year.
- State Apprenticeship Expansion Grants – In Spring 2018, DOL made approximately $50 million in continuation funding available to the 37 state apprenticeship expansion grantees to enable states to continue their work to expand apprenticeship with the goal of sparking 10 percent growth over the next two years. These funds have helped thousands of workers and companies across the country, and have been successful at advancing apprenticeship as a talent solution within state education, economic development, and workforce systems.
- Technology Modernization to Scale Apprenticeship and Pre-Apprenticeship – In Summer 2018, DOL invested approximately $16.3 million to develop digital apprenticeship services which will be fueled by new technologies including artificial intelligence features, mobile apps, data sharing, and other applications to support significant scaling of apprenticeship. These digital resources will help apprentices and pre-apprentices identify programs of interest and provide off-the-shelf resources to employers, educators, and the public at large.
- Improved Marketing, Public Awareness, and Business Outreach – In Summer 2018, DOL invested approximately $6.8 million in new strategies to market apprenticeships and make more Americans aware of the opportunities available to them and the variety of jobs that provide family-sustaining wages.
- Strategic Apprenticeship Research and Business Engagement – In Summer 2018, DOL invested approximately $7.9 million to assess the level of apprenticeship activity occurring across the country, classifying the different types of apprenticeship occurring in various industries, assessing their impact on the workforce, and using this information to come up with innovative ideas to help agency decision makers advance apprenticeship expansion initiatives.
Apprenticeship State Expansion Grants
To build on the successes generated through this Administration’s apprenticeship expansion strategies, the Department of Labor announced $73 million in Apprenticeship State Expansion grants available to every state to support apprenticeship expansion efforts. In recent years, governors and state legislatures have recognized apprenticeship as an effective strategy for meeting the needs of businesses, keeping up with a rapidly-changing economy, building a skilled workforce, and accelerating growth that leads to economic opportunity for America’s workers and their families. With these funds, states will raise awareness of apprenticeship, embed apprenticeship into education and workforce development systems, increase diversity, and continue to invest in new partnerships and programs.
The primary goals of the grants include:
- Expanding the number of apprentices in Registered Apprenticeship Programs nationwide;
- Supporting and encouraging Registered Apprenticeship Program diversification, including increasing the diversity of apprentices and growing apprenticeship across industry sectors; and
- Advancing the integration of Registered Apprenticeship Programs into state workforce development, education, and economic development strategies and programs, ensuring that apprenticeship is a viable career path for youth, adults, career seekers as well as a valuable workforce development strategy for businesses.