Apprenticeships continue to be a hot topic in workforce development across the country. As the labor market tightens, and the in need for highly-skilled workers grows, many employers are turning to apprenticeship programs as a way to build the workforce they need to succeed. That is why the National Fund has increased its focus on exemplary employers and the best practices of high-performing, successful apprenticeship programs.
In early May 2018, the National Fund had the opportunity to see firsthand an example of a model apprenticeship program. The National Fund’s Apprenticeship Program Director Pam Howze coordinated a group of apprenticeship stakeholders to tour the Newport News Shipbuilding Apprentice School in Virginia. This tour was coordinated in conjunction with the Dan River Region Collaborative, who have put significant effort into expanding and supporting apprenticeship programs in the Dan River region of Virginia.
The tour group, comprised of high school, community college and university representatives, foundations and employers were given an opportunity to see a high-functioning apprenticeship school in action. First, participants received an overview of the Apprentice School. This included a discussion of the requirements needed to complete the program, job-placement prospects for program graduates, specific skills gained, and more. Then, participants heard from three apprentices currently enrolled in the program. The apprentices were excited to describe the program and look forward to the fulfilling career prospects they will have after completing the program. The event ended with a guided tour of the state of the art training facility, located on the waterfront in Newport News. Participants left the event with an improved sense of the direction apprenticeship programs in the region could take
Virginia is one of many states that is taking concrete steps to invest in and improve their apprenticeship programs. As new and different skills become more in demand, apprenticeship programs continue to offer a great pathway to work and create a skilled workforce that employers are looking for in the future. Virginia sees the benefit in these programs, as they are continuing to fund apprenticeship fact-finding tours, like this, statewide. They are hoping to expand apprenticeships to a variety of sectors, including Healthcare and IT Coding.
As the Dan River Region Collaborative gets more involved in developing apprenticeship programs, they have been proactive about seeking out employers and programs that can be held up as models. In July, a group of representatives from the Dan River Region Collaborative and the National Fund will travel to Germany to tour manufacturing facilities and apprenticeship schools. The goal of these trips is to discover new practices and strategies to better implement and improve apprenticeship programs locally. The National Fund is excited to be on the forefront of training a new generation of apprentices to create a highly-skilled workforce that will meet and exceed the needs of employers now and in the future.