U.S. Department of Labor creates new apprenticeship model, announces grants

Published: Jul. 5, 2019 at 7:32 AM CDT
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Montez King grew up in Baltimore, Maryland and thought his only option for a successful future after he graduated from high school would be to go to college. That changed when he was offered the opportunity of a machining apprenticeship.

It would include taking courses at the local community college, and better yet, he said, he would get to work for $10 an hour.

"I came home and I told my mom and my sister. I told them what I was going to be making, and my sister said no way they going to pay that kind of money," King said. "She said only drug dealers make that much money where we live."

For King, that apprenticeship became a job, which became a career. He says it is a path more people should consider.

“The apprenticeship was good from the professional side of learning the trade as well as the personal side, and there are a lot of other kids out there that could use that help," King said.

The U.S. Department of Labor recently created a second apprenticeship model. The new programs will still cover a variety of industries from healthcare to manufacturing, but federal oversight will be looser, giving schools and industries more say in how they are run.

“We have seen so much job growth, and this is about providing Americans the skills to fill those open jobs," said Labor Secretary Alex Acosta.

But not everyone is sold on the new option. Earlier this year when the new system was proposed, eleven Senate Democrats, including Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN), wrote to the Labor Department with concerns.

"Why the administration is going down the path of creating a low-quality, unauthorized, and duplicative program — instead of working to expand, invest in, and modernize a program that has had great success and traditionally strong bipartisan support—is beyond me," Smith said in a statement.

And Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), who also signed the letter to Acosta, had similar worries.

"Federal funds for apprenticeships are limited, and every taxpayer dollar should be used as efficiently as possible so as to build a workforce our businesses need to compete globally," Baldwin said in a statement.

Along with the new industry-led system, the Labor Department also announced over $183 million in grants to colleges and businesses partnering on apprenticeship programs.

Since the beginning of 2017, there has been over half a million new apprenticeships across the country, according to the Labor Department.