Apprenticeships - The Forgotten Post Secondary Opportunity

Mark Pogliano's picture

Written by Mark Pogliano, Principal, Jackson Area Career Center and the CTE Representative on the MASSP Board of Directors

The practice of apprenticeship is not a new concept in education, but is experiencing a renewed popularity as another pathway for students in their careers. With the aging workforce and availability of skilled trade occupations, there is a greater need to develop a talent pipeline in the state that would benefit from the registered apprenticeship process.

The perception of apprenticeship training is that students are participants in skilled training, such as plumbing, masons, and electricians. However, apprenticeship opportunities are also available in a variety of occupational fields such as Healthcare, Business, Finance, Information Technology, and Engineering. In fact, there are over 1,300 occupations that participate in registered apprenticeship programs (Source: https://www.doleta.gov/OA/occupations.cfm).

These programs provide students with a viable training pathway that can allow them to “earn while you learn.” Besides having a job and paycheck, apprentices benefit by improving their competencies and skills, increasing their earning potential, attaining portable industry - recognized credentials, and possibly earning college credits. In addition, the average completer in an apprenticeship program can finish their program debt-free, and earn an average salary starting at $45,000. (Source:
https://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/07/14/business/economy/a-new-look-at-apprenticeships-as-a-path-to-the-middle-class.html).

Employers across the state have expressed the concerns that there are not enough qualified skilled applicants for available jobs. To address these concerns, the established partnership between educators and employers through an apprenticeship program is a viable option to create a sustainable talent pipeline. Registered apprenticeship programs are advantageous because they provide employers with a higher level of skilled workers, improved retention of employees, customized training, and most importantly, a proven training model. (Source: https://www.doleta.gov/oa/employers/apprenticeship_toolkit.pdf).

In Jackson County, we are looking to expand the opportunities for students to enter into an apprenticeship program. Currently we have a program called the Jackson Area College and Career Connection, or JAC3 for short. JAC3 is a CTE-based early/middle college program offered by the Jackson County ISD as an option to students who enroll in their 11th grade year in select programs at the Jackson Area Career Center. As in other early/middle colleges, JAC3 students can earn an Associate's degree at the same time they graduate from high school. Additionally, these students are registered as apprentices through the Academy for Manufacturing Careers and are employed by local companies. These local company sponsors provide the students with paid work-based learning opportunities and pick up half the cost of the college credit that the local schools would otherwise be responsible for under traditional dual enrollment.

“We think of these students not as dual enrolled students but as triple enrolled,” said Jackson Area Manufacturing Association (JAMA) President Bill Rayl. “They're in high school, college and registered apprenticeship simultaneously. It's a great way for these young adults to get valuable work experience and a free post-secondary education while our manufacturers gain the ability to shape and mold their future star employees. The student is our raw material and through the JAC3 program we're manufacturing highly talented people from that raw material.”

As educators, we need to continue to look at ways to provide our students with multiple postsecondary options. By working together with local and regional employers, we can help to keep the talent pipeline flowing smoothly.