Executive Director Discusses Role of Apprenticeships and Co-ops in Addressing Workforce Skills Gap

Earlier this month President Obama announced additional funding opportunities from the Department of Labor for Community Colleges under the TAACCCT program (Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training) and separately, additional funding for apprenticeship programs. The second, $100,000,000 will be awarded later this year from H1-B funds for American Apprenticeship Grants. Apprenticeships are a proven path to employment and the middle class: 87% of apprentices are employed after completing their programs with an average starting wage for completers of over $50,000. The program will support several innovative projects that include: scale in-demand job training across the country through national industry partnerships; advance education & training to ensure seamless progressions, and improve statewide employment and education data integration and use.

There is still a lot of confusion about apprenticeship programs and how they work. We addressed the topic
last year in the series “Defining Workable Education Models” where we took a close look at the terms of engagement for apprenticeship programs. What many Florida manufacturers do know (or think they know) is that apprenticeship programs can produce many qualified workers that they need in various technical manufacturing and industrial areas. What they might not know is that most apprenticeship programs are primarily run by (or registered to) a company. Detailed information about apprenticeship programs in Florida can be found at the Florida Department of Education website at www.fldoe.org/workforce/apprenticeship.

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Alternative to these very structured apprentice programs, there are many new co-operative (work-study) systems being implemented across the country. They are not true apprenticeship programs. They are innovative co-op programs in two-year programs that are providing consistent, monitored work experience integrated with specially designed academic degree programs. These programs provide many of the advantages of registered apprenticeships with a different mix of academic and technical courses and work experience. The programs typically run cohorts of students, and provide paid part-time and/or full-time work. Students graduate with an associate degree in a technical discipline and will have worked 20-40 hours per week in an industry related position with mentoring at the employer when they graduate. These programs still require significant commitment by the companies. Employers commit to helping design the coursework; providing monitored OJT work experiences; and paying the students for their work during the 2-year program. 

There are currently several of these programs being put into place by large automotive manufacturers across the U.S. Their objectives are to prepare a workforce of multi-skilled production technicians. In some regions, consortia of companies are developing these programs with each employer committing to support one, or more students. In these cases, the consortia members work together to define the college curricula and agree on similar work experiences for the students.  This new “co-op” model for technical and community college workforce programs should help fill the workforce gap for manufacturing companies in Florida. We should keep our eyes on these programs and how they are working for industry and educators, and consider adopting and/or adapting this model in Florida.

I invite you to continue this discussion here on this blog and/or across our social media platforms. A special congratulations to all the A.S.E.T graduates in Florida. In keeping with the "cap and gown" theme, we bring you a story that includes data byte on graduates from the consortia of engineering technology programs across Florida. We also have a new sTEm puzzle to tickle your STEMtastic skills, a recap of FLATE’s engagement with national robotics day activities, and a first-hand account from an Albert Einstein fellow and his efforts to help educators across Florida implement the “T” and “E” pieces of STEM.