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US Apprenticeship Programs Get $100 Million Boost

Feb. 19, 2020
The Department of Labor announced the funds as part of their "Closing the Skills Gap" initiative.

The U.S. Department of Labor announced February 18 that it would award $100 million in grants to 28 public-private apprenticeship programs throughout the country. The “Apprenticeship: Closing the Skills Gap” program targets funding apprenticeships in the fields of IT, healthcare, and “advanced manufacturing.”

Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia made the announcement at a trip to North Carolina State University, which will receive just under $6 million from the program. Other programs will reportedly receive amounts between $6 million and $500,000, although the lowest granted award listed by the Department of Labor at press time was $972,000. The money will come from fees collected from H-1B visa applicants.. Notable recipients include the AFL-CIO, Argentum, the Electrical Training Alliance, community colleges and universities around the country.

“Companies across the country tell me their greatest challenge today is finding the skilled workers they need,” Scalia said. He also said that apprenticeship was a viable alternative to a traditional bachelor’s degree for Americans seeking “good paying careers.”

The program aims specifically to support programs that include a paid learn-on-the-job component in addition to a more traditional, education component. According to the Department of Labor, funded programs will support training for more than 92,000 people.

It’s a “good first step,” according to Katie Spiker, Director of Government Affairs at the National Skills Coalition. “We’re glad to see that the grants are being awarded to strong partnerships that include labor, community organizations, and community and technical colleges,” she said in a statement.

But it is just a first step, she says. Other, “more sustainable” funding is necessary.

Spiker cited a bill, currently in the House of Representatives, called the PARTNERS Act. According to a summary of the “Promoting Apprenticeships through Regional Training Networks for Employers’ Required Skills” Act, it would also use H1-B funds to award grants for job training programs. The bill was originally introduced in 2017, and reintroduced in early February by a bipartisan coalition of representatives: Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Drew Ferguson (R-GA), Susan Davis (D-CA), and Brett Guthrie (R-KY). Spiker’s National Skills Coalition helped craft the legislation.

“As Congress approaches appropriation season, lawmakers should heed the call of workers and businesses who overwhelmingly want to see a significant increase in federal investment in job training, including and beyond apprenticeship,” said Spiker. 

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