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“The Other 4-Year Degree”: DOL Announces $100M in Apprenticeship Grants

DOL Sec. Thomas Perez tours a SMART Union Local 17 training center

DOL Sec. Thomas Perez tours a SMART Union Local 17 training center

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The Department of Labor (DOL) has officially announced that it will make available $100 million in grants to help registered apprenticeship programs expand their training.  The grants are specifically aimed at helping boost programs in high skill industries such as healthcare, biotechnology, information technology and advanced manufacturing.  DOL Secretary Thomas Perez had previously mentioned the grants when he toured apprenticeship programs across the Northeast.  

In a November visit to Building Pathways, a Building Trades union program in Boston, Perez said: “For the first time, the Department of Labor, in our efforts to lift up apprenticeship and double the number of apprentices in the next five years, will put out a competitive grant program.”

This week the grants became official. Programs have until April 30th, 2015 to submit their applications  Perez’s DOL statement touts the importance of the apprenticeship system to the future of the workforce:

“An apprenticeship is the ‘other 4-year degree’. It is a tried and true job training strategy that offers a reliable path to the middle class, with no debt.  I encourage everyone to apply for this federal grant so that we can significantly scale apprenticeships opportunities for many more Americans in new industries and occupations.”

This unprecedented investment aims to transform apprenticeship programs for the 21st century and help create a younger workforce. It will be divied up as follows, according to the DOL:

Approximately 25 grants from $2.5 million to $5 million each will be awarded using funds collected from employers who use H-1B visas to hire foreign workers. Programs funded by this initiative will provide U.S. workers with training to fill jobs that 1) are projected to hire a substantial number of new workers; 2) are being transformed by technology and innovations that require 21st century skills for workers; 3) are new and emerging industries and/or businesses that are projected to grow; or 4) have a significant impact on the economy overall.

Apprenticeship grants will be awarded to public and private partnerships consisting of employers, business associations, joint labor-management organizations, labor organizations, community colleges, local and state governments, and other non-profit organizations. Successful applicants will use the federal funds to develop registered apprenticeship programs that align with other post-secondary education and create career pathways to long-term careers. The grants will also encourage greater access to apprenticeship opportunities for historically underrepresented populations including women, young men and women of color, people with disabilities, and veterans and transitioning service members.

The grant program reflects the goals of the Promoting Apprenticeships for Credentials and Employment Act (PACE Act) which was introduced in the House by Wisconsin Rep. Mark Pocan and in the Senate by Washington Sen. Patty Murray.  Pocan wavex ecstatic about the announcement:

“I’m pleased to see the Administration take action today to expand apprenticeship programs, which incorporates the primary goals of the PACE Act. Much like the Administration’s initiative, this legislation would expand apprenticeships in the most in-demand, high-skilled industries and occupations.

“We have long known America has no shortage of smart, willing workers just waiting for their chance to pursue a fulfilling career and I am hopeful we can build on the President’s initiative through passage of the PACE Act.”


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