How Apprenticeships Can Reduce Barriers to In-Demand Jobs

A lack of education and skills among adults has emerged as a significant problem as many employers struggle to find the skilled talent they need to fill open jobs. While the number of educated adults is slowly growing, there is still an immediate demand for skilled workers.


However, the cost of post-secondary education is out of reach for many. Tuition costs are especially unaffordable for those living below the ALICE threshold, who cannot leave full-time employment to attend school.


Apprenticeship models can solve this issue. Through an apprenticeship, adults can gain an education while earning money, and eventually begin an in-demand and lucrative career.


Implementing Apprenticeships in Nontraditional Fields

Traditionally, apprenticeship models are utilized in skilled trades fields such as carpentry or plumbing. However, a growing number of companies and fields are developing apprenticeships to fill the demand for workers.


For example, Brinker International, Inc., owners of national restaurant chains Maggiano’s Little Italy and Chili’s Grill & Bar, recently announced the development of the Hospitality Sector Registered Apprenticeship (HSRA). This program will enroll 250 apprentices and is the nation’s first “earn-while-you-learn” program in the restaurant, food service, and lodging industry. These careers fall into the Retail and Hospitality Services sector, which is West Michigan’s largest of the seven employment sectors.


Similarly, West Michigan’s own Mercy Health has utilized a Medical Assistant Apprenticeship in partnership with Grand Rapids Community College, Muskegon Community College, and Montcalm Community College. This 11-month program allows students to earn a paycheck with benefits and learn through both hands-on work and classroom instruction. Learn more about this program in a previous blog.


How Apprenticeships Can Improve

With these successes in mind, apprenticeships should be increased and encouraged throughout many sectors of employment in the US. Particularly in Europe, widespread apprenticeships have proven to be positive for building a skilled workforce. Apprenticeship growth also has bipartisan support in the US, and both Presidents Obama and Trump have prioritized these models. It is worthwhile to note that apprenticeships typically decrease in number during times of recession and are slow to recover.


Employers can help by supporting, sponsoring, or even initiating apprenticeships within their sectors. It is better, however, to train apprentices to be successful in a field overall, rather than limit their knowledge to a specific company. This also allows for skilled and adaptable workers for entire industries as so many jobs quickly change and technology advances.


For more information about apprenticeships and other recommendations to increase West Michigan’s skilled labor force, check out our Education and Skills one-pager.

What do you think about apprenticeships? Do you know of a particular successful program here in West Michigan? Let us know on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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