The key to a successful economic recovery is ensuring that everyone shares in the renewed prosperity. That has been President Obama’s top priority from day one. It’s why he’s pushed for higher wages and policies that support working families. It’s why he bet on the American auto industry when others were ready to leave it for dead. It’s why he’s called for more infrastructure spending, comprehensive immigration reform, and investments in higher education and child care. And it’s why he’s made strategic and sustained investments in workforce skills and training programs that will prepare more American workers for the jobs that employers are ready to fill. This includes unprecedented investments in apprenticeships – a time-tested, proven strategy to for enhancing our workforce.
On Friday, we announced our latest strategic investment in apprenticeships. The Administration awarded more than $50 million in grants to expand our national apprenticeship system in 36 states across the country. These grants will help us push forward our efforts to grow and modernize our apprenticeship system – encouraging adoption in new industries and expanding access to apprenticeships for minority groups previously underrepresented in apprenticeship programs.
In Wisconsin, for example, the state will use its $1.5 million dollar award to create apprenticeships in rapid-growth industries, such as construction, financial services, and biotechnology. Colorado will invest its $1.8 million grant in growing middle-class jobs by expanding youth and adult apprenticeships, as well as pre-apprenticeships for young people within school districts across the state. In Washington State, a $2.7 million award will expand Registered Apprenticeship opportunities for underrepresented populations, including women, people with disabilities, and people of color.
We call these investments “strategic” because we know we’re not just throwing money at a problem and hoping it sticks. In fact, 91 percent of apprentices are employed after completing their programs. The average starting salary for someone coming out of an apprenticeship program is over $60,000. And apprenticeships are good for employers too — for every dollar they invest in an apprentice, employers get back $1.47 in increased productivity, reduced waste, and greater innovation.
That’s why, in 2014, President Obama set an ambitious goal to double the number of registered apprenticeships. Since then, the United States has added more than 125,000 new apprenticeships, the largest increase in nearly a decade. And state and local leaders have stepped up, too — with 14 states taking on initiatives that have expanded apprenticeship by over 20 percent in their regions. More than 275 colleges now offer apprentices college credit for what they learn on the job, making apprenticeship a step forward to a career and further education.
Investments in training programs aren’t particularly sexy. They don’t get a lot of headlines. But without expanding access to apprenticeships; without creating new federal initiatives such as TechHire, which equips Americans with skills for technology and cyber security jobs; without expanding Trade Adjustment Assistance, which helps displaced workers transition into new jobs, we wouldn’t have recovered from the worst economic crisis in generations, and we wouldn’t be able to compete on a global scale.
But our progress on the successful learn-and-earn Apprenticeship model is not assured. The House Appropriations Committee de-funds these efforts just as we are making real advances to expand apprenticeship opportunities to more workers. Eliminating funding from this successful initiative would deprive thousands of Americans the chance to not just train for a job – but to start a career in a growing industry that will provide good wages and opportunities for advancement.
Training programs like apprenticeships are a clear path to shared prosperity, and today’s grants will provide hard working Americans with the skills and knowledge they need to advance their careers, get good jobs, and grow the economy.