By Iris Hentze and Andrew Smalley
The U.S. Department of Labor this week recognizes apprentices, apprenticeships, employers, and other partners with National Apprenticeship Week (NAW).
Apprenticeships are work-based learning programs that include a paid-work component and an educational or instructional component, so apprentices are paid for learning and practicing their new skills.
The key to effective apprenticeship programs is a strong partnership between industry and education stakeholders. Apprenticeships traditionally are most prolific in sectors like construction, the trades and health care. Today states have expanded their support for these programs to such diverse sectors as IT, financial services, and advanced manufacturing. Apprenticeships serve as an important alternative pathway to highly skilled work without the requirement of a four-year college degree.
In their annual celebration of NAW states hold events and make proclamations showing their support for the important role apprenticeship programs play in the workforce. Events include panel discussions, apprenticeship graduation ceremonies, employer forums, job fairs, hands-on-trainings and open houses and bring together the many different partners needed to make apprenticeship programs work including employers, education and training facilities and government.
In previous years, these events have occurred in person, but as with most things in 2020, NAW is a virtual event this year.
More than 500 virtual events are planned in 48 states, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico including webinars, video conferences and online “Ask Me Anything” forums.
- In Washington State a virtual open house will be held for workers interested in pre-apprenticeships in the IT industry.
- Missouri is hosting a number of virtual events with participation from intermediaries, businesses, workforce staff and the Missouri Chamber of Commerce the state’s focus on apprenticeship work.
- Pennsylvania’s Department of Agriculture is holding several events to discuss and inform the public of agriculture apprenticeship programs.
In addition to hosting events celebrating NAW, this year states demonstrated a continued commitment to apprentices and apprenticeship programs by enacting 494 related bills.
Many of these enacted bills cover state appropriations and tax incentives for apprenticeship programs, such as Iowa HB 2641, which allows students to use funds from 529 College Savings plans to pay for fees, books, supplies and equipment required for participating in an apprenticeship program. Maryland enacted SB 751, ensuring youth apprentices are eligible for the state’s apprenticeship income tax credit and establishing the Apprenticeship Tax Credit Reserve Fund. Washington passed SB 6374, which allows students enrolled in the dual enrollment scholarship pilot program to receive funding to cover the costs of “apprenticeship materials”.
Other bills work to align state agencies and promote information sharing to help students and families understand which apprenticeships are available:
- Colorado SB 81 requires the Department of Labor and Employment to collaborate with the Department of Education to include contact information for apprenticeship training programs in the state’s apprenticeship resource directory.
- Mississippi enacted HB 1336, the ‘Learn to Earn Act’, which requires state agencies to establish procedures to help students receive exemptions from federal and state labor laws and receive credit for apprenticeships and other student internship programs. The bill also requires the state to develop guidelines and policies for school-to-work apprenticeship programs.
- West Virginia SB 781 encourages community and technical colleges offering associate degrees to enter into collaborative agreements with federally registered apprenticeship programs and requires an annual report for these programs.
Iris Hentze is a policy specialist in NCSL’s Employment, Labor and Retirement Program.
Andrew Smalley is a research analyst in NCSL’s Education Program.