Why Apprenticeship Matters for Workers, Businesses, and Unions

Published mar. 14, 2017

Meeting the demand for a competitive 21st century manufacturing workforce will require training models that work. Apprenticeships are a powerful solution that equip workers with the technical skills needed to drive the country’s manufacturing industry to grow and succeed in the global economy. 

For the past five years, manufacturers, union leaders, and workforce intermediaries in the Midwest piloted the Industrial Manufacturing Technician (IMT) Apprenticeship model. One hundred thirty apprentices have been employed at 15 manufacturing firms across Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania since the project launched. Leaders in this work met in Minneapolis to share lessons from their experience that reflect not only the importance of the IMT model, but also the broader impact of apprenticeships for companies, organizations, and workers.  Here are some takeaways and lessons learned from the meeting.  

Apprenticeship Transforms Lives  

When employees enroll in apprenticeships  they develop pride in their work and progress. They're proud of their ability to advance their skills, develop relationships with colleagues who provide ongoing feedback, and experience new aspects of the business that they wouldn't have otherwise.    

The IMT is a hybrid/competency based model, where apprentices progress when they demonstrate mastery instead of through time based “seat time.” This model allows employers to provide flexible training opportunities, such as onsite instruction where apprentices learn at their worksite instead of traveling to a local college.   

Apprentices carry their earned credential with them throughout their career. This training and credentialing leads to improved skills and expertise and higher earnings over time. Here’s U.S. Department of Labor Deputy Administrator Daniel Villao on the generational impact of apprenticeship: Read the transcription

When employers establish apprenticeship opportunities, employees often see these efforts as a company’s investment in them. Listen to Brandi Dunham, the first graduate of the IMT program share her experience: Read the transcription

When employees feel more committed to their work and dedicated to improving their skills, businesses experience an improvement to their bottom line.  

Apprenticeship is better for business  

Having a highly trained workforce is significantly less expensive than managing costs incurred with turnover: recruitment and training, and unskilled, unproductive labor that leads to poor quality products. 

Apprenticeship provides a framework for building a pipeline of skilled employees. It ensures that employers have a structure that meets their company’s training needs. Apprenticeship is one of the tools that can make up an effective workforce development system—it’s a talent recruitment, selection, education, development (mentoring), and retention model.  

Often it will lead to employers discovering and utilizing untapped talent of their current workforce. Listen to Stacey Rose of Kroger share her experience with the IMT model here: Read the transcription

Apprenticeship gives unions, intermediaries, and employers a backbone for collaboration

Apprenticeship programs bring unions, workforce intermediaries, and employers together as partners working together to improve the workforce. Models like the IMT Apprenticeship can help organized labor, associations, and employers see common goals and shared priorities. 

When employers are skeptical or don’t immediately see the value of apprenticeship, it’s often union leaders and workforce intermediaries who help companies identify their workforce needs and how apprenticeship can serve as a solution.

Meeting the demand for an increasingly skilled workforce will require additional engagement and cross sector collaboration between employers, unions, workforce associations and state and federal policymakers. Thank you Senator Abeler, Congressman Tom Emmer, and U.S. Senator Al Franken for their support at the event. Franken spoke at the IMT convening via video. Watch:

For more information on the IMT Apprenticeship, visit IMTApprenticeship.org and JFF.org.