February 22, 2024
Annapolis, US 44 F

OPINION: Today’s Apprenticeships are Not Yesterday’s

When most people hear the word apprenticeship, they think of careers only in the skilled trades, envisioning the stereotypical industrial or factory worker with a job that involves manual labor and does not require a college degree. But today’s apprenticeships are not the same as the one your grandfather or father may have had. They’re changing and are more important than ever.

Modern apprenticeships are different. There are many kinds of nontraditional apprenticeships which can work with almost any occupation these days, especially those that benefit women and people of color. Apprenticeships also address some of the most pressing local workforce shortages such as in healthcare, IT/cybersecurity, and hospitality/tourism, industries which are highly impacted in Maryland and Anne Arundel County.

Anne Arundel County recently celebrated National Apprenticeship Week and invited job seekers, area businesses, government agency heads, community members, and elected officials to events that helped educate stakeholders about the importance, lifetime value, and long-term benefits of apprenticeship for individuals and businesses.

You may be wondering what is an apprenticeship? Registered Apprenticeships are an industry-driven, high-quality career pathway in which employers can develop and prepare their future workforce, and individuals can obtain paid work experience, receive progressive wage increases, classroom instruction, and portable, nationally-recognized credentials. Registered Apprenticeships are industry-vetted, approved and validated by the U.S. Department of Labor or a state apprenticeship agency. 

Not all students need or want to attend college as their chosen career path. Apprenticeships are a dependable and reliable way for participants to earn progressively higher wages while learning and obtaining the skills and experience necessary to succeed in a specific occupation of their choosing. They can earn family-sustaining wages through the time-tested model of apprenticeship training that the Swiss made famous, and Maryland has studied and implemented.

Study after study shows that apprenticeships improve people’s lives significantly. The benefits and gains experienced by individual job seekers, including high school apprentices, are numerous creating increased morale and confidence, more in demand workers, and higher earnings potential. The average starting salary for an apprentice in Maryland was $50,000 annually last year. Apprentices earn a self-sustaining income while they learn new skills, receive higher wages as they improve their skills, and take on higher levels of responsibility.

Most apprentices are hired by the company that provided their training, and more than 90 percent of apprentices are employed with the same company five years after being hired. 

In Anne Arundel County, apprentices experience an increase in lifetime earnings of 19 percent, and a 21 percent improvement in their overall quality of life. That’s according to a 2019 study by the Business Economic and Community Outreach Network at the Franklin B. Perdue School of Business at Salisbury University. These apprentices also saw a 63 percent increase in job placements, much higher than the national average. 

For businesses, apprenticeships are a win-win. Registered apprenticeships help organizations develop a ready pipeline of highly skilled workers. This allows companies to build their workforce to suit their needs and requirements, leads to higher organizational productivity and growth, better employee loyalty, and less turnover.  As a result, hiring costs are reduced, liability insurance is lowered, and businesses have less downtime.

In Maryland, firms can receive valuable tax credits of $3,000 per apprentice for the first five eligible apprentices, and $1,000 per High School apprentice for the first five eligible students.

But some organizations still need convincing. They think it costs more to hire and train an apprentice, and that it adds more work. That’s not the case at all. Apprenticeships can be established for current job openings that companies are already hiring for, and are a great way to fill vacancies. Businesses need to remember that apprentices are trained in your business and processes, and are loyal employees.

The value and importance of apprenticeship cannot be understated. Dollar for dollar, there’s no bigger impact in workforce training than registered apprenticeship. The average return on investment (ROI) is $144 for every $100 invested in apprenticeship in the nation. And the public return on investment, which is society’s untold gain, is far greater with every $1 spent on apprenticeship generating a return of $28 in benefits to the U.S. economy on average.  

Apprenticeships also lessen the demand for costly social services. In Anne Arundel County, unemployment insurance claims dropped 67 percent, and reliance on public assistance shrunk 42 percent, according to the 2019 study.

Maryland workforce development staff in each county are working diligently to increase the number and types of apprenticeships available to solve workforce shortages. For the first time in history, the state surpassed 12,100 apprentices registered in 2021, and added 32 brand new types of apprenticeship programs. This is helping diversify the industries and occupations that offer apprenticeship opportunities today.

Increasing the number of apprenticeships in Maryland is critical to developing a strong, diverse workforce which can meet the future needs of local businesses in high demand industries. The results lead to improvements in the business climate overall and overall competitiveness, allows families to prosper, and strengthens the social and economic fabric of our communities.

Please let me know if you have any questions, are interested in talking with Kirk, or would like any photos from the events held recently.

We can also provide contact information and links for people looking for a job or apprenticeship and training at the Anne Arundel County Career Center. We are a great resource for individuals and businesses that need help applying for a Registered Apprenticeship program with the state.

Kirkland J. Murray is the President of the Maryland Workforce Association and President & CEO of Anne Arundel Workforce Development Corporation

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