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Weekly Column – Rodger Wicker U.S. State Senator for Mississippi

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Wicker Touts the Value of Apprenticeships

On-the-Job Training Opportunities Are a Win-Win for Employees, Employers

An apprenticeship offers a professional experience that can have a lasting impact on an individual’s career.  It is no wonder that more than half a million Americans today are beginning their careers – or starting new ones – in these hands-on, earn-as-you-learn programs.

Consider these encouraging statistics reported by the Department of Labor: Nine out of 10 apprentices are hired after finishing their programs. The starting salaries for former apprentices average $60,000, and these workers will bring in an estimated $300,000 more in earnings throughout their careers than workers who did not complete an apprenticeship program.

Employers also stand to benefit from putting valuable time and resources toward programs that train workers in specialized skills.  A 2016 report by the Department of Commerce and Case Western Reserve University revealed how apprenticeships were good for the company’s bottom line.  In some of the companies studied, the authors found 40 and 50 percent returns on funds invested in apprentice programs.  In the end, companies not only had employees ready and capable of meeting the demands of the job but also better productivity and employee retention.

A Solution for the Skills Gap

President Trump continues to praise the value of on-the-job training, issuing a proclamation for National Apprenticeship Week earlier this month.  Last year, he created the Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion, bringing together business executives, educators, public officials, and association leaders to identify ways to increase the training opportunities available to Americans.

I agree with the President that we need to do more to address the skills gap that continues to persist in America’s labor market.  Although the number of apprenticeship programs has grown significantly in recent years, there are still not enough workers properly trained for millions of unfilled U.S. jobs – many in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields.

I am hopeful that the “Apprenticeship Enhancement Act” I introduced in the Senate last year will help change this situation.  If passed, it would expedite the process that companies go through when registering or updating their apprenticeship program with the Department of Labor.  By easing current regulatory hurdles, the bill would also fulfill one of the policy directives in the President’s executive order to add more apprenticeships across U.S. industries.

ARC Grant Will Help Put Mississippians in Technical Careers

Mississippians are already working to make sure our state’s students and young adults have the education and training needed for a technical job.  At Itawamba Community College in October, I helped announce an Appalachian Regional Commission grant that will be used for this purpose.

The grant will help support a public-private initiative led by the Skills Foundation known as “Get on the Grid.”  Its goal is to raise awareness among prospective workers about the technical career paths that are right for them.  Sometimes the training for these skilled jobs does not require a four-year degree.  Sometimes this training is best attained through a two-year community college program or an apprenticeship.  “Get on the Grid” offers a virtual guidance counselor that can help with these decisions and meet the workforce demands of our state’s leading industries.

Our state’s workforce has helped make Mississippi a desirable place for business investment.  This reputation should continue as the labor market evolves with the needs of a 21st-century economy.  Apprenticeships will ensure Mississippians have the skills to stay competitive.

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Categories: Local News, State News

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