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The first day of attending the 2009 Eastern Seaboard Apprenticeship Conference (hence, ESAC) was, in all honestly, amazing, and I would expect nothing less.  The opening ceremony was truly moving, which was opened by the Boston Police Bagpipe and Drum group, followed by our national anthem sung by Dan Clarke, an amazing singer with the Massachusetts State Police.  As they say up here in these parts, it was “wicked cool.”  Although I am now a Louisiana girl, I’ve also been a Georgia, Virginia, Maryland, New York, Vermont, and Massachusetts girl as well. So, being in the Back Bay of Boston again has been a sentimental walk down memory lane, to say the least.  Boston has a charm and feel to it unlike any other city I’ve known, and the opening ceremony was reflective of that – moving and unforgettable. Only New Orleans can rival it.

But even more impressive than the opening ceremonies was the keynote speaker.  Now, I’ll be the first to admit that most of the conferences I have attended over the years have had lackluster keynote speakers at best. But today was different.  Today was Mark Breslin of Breslin Strategies, Inc. – author, strategist, expert, and truth monger.  He is a consultant for group training programs and labor-management relations.  In my opinion, he is a visionary as well.  (Mark, I take cash or money orders only, $5 per word for the kudos).

So, after participating through two sessions of his, I knew I had to share with all of you.  His core message, in a nutshell, is this:  Times have changed, so apprenticeship programs, particularly those in the construction and building trades, need to change with them in order to stay relevant, grow, and compete.  

Well, after listening to him, I am a believer in the Breslin mantra.  It’s time to get real and face the music.  Apprenticeship programs, especially the ones that have been around for a long time, are missing the boat.  They hope to keep running their programs the same way they always have, which used to work, but doesn’t any longer.  There is a deep rooted apprenticeship culture in some industries – we’ll call it the “old school” way – that worked well with baby boomers, less so with Generation X, and next to impossible to apply to Generation Y.  It’s getting harder and harder to develop and retain the high quality apprentices that employers need.

In an effort to keep this from resembling the length of a masters dissertation, I’ll give you a quick tease of the high points that were covered, which emphasize the need for apprenticeship programs to take a hard look at how to better serve their customers, which require a cultural shift in thinking.
  • Apprenticeship programs should be regarded as leadership development training, and encouraged.
  • Apprenticeship programs would be more effective if they adopted the same priorities as the top ten most admired companies in this country have, such as providing a high return on investment, disciplined evaluation, creating a people based culture, long term planning, and innovation.
  • A supervisor training track should be implemented and available for apprentices that are identified early on as leadership material – don’t make them “pay their dues” for ten years before they’re promoted – long after they’ve left for greener pastures.
  • The top three motivators for apprentices are praise and recognition, participation in decision making, and money.  Generation X and Y, those that are prime recruiting material, respond most favorably when these motivators are used.
  • Apprenticeship programs need to do a better job of harnessing the power of including apprentices in the decision making process, creating a culture of thinkers.
  • Contractors need to make changes in the worksite culture as well, by changing success measures, implementing more organizational accountability and creating an environment of responsibility and respect.
  • Foremen/supervisors need the three Ms: money, motivation and mentoring – in order to maximize their effectiveness on the job, and gain the tools necessary to develop apprentices into thinkers and leaders as well.
I know what you’re thinking, training directors and contractors.  “My program is of the highest quality!  There is plenty of accountability!  But these kids today, they’re lazy, unreliable, and don’t value hard work.  We have to break them down the build them back up, make them realize their place, and they have to pay dues like I did.  We’re not going to hold their hands and tell them how wonderful they are, like their mothers do.  These kids need to learn a lesson.”

While there is truth to this, there is also truth in the fact that we need to change with the times, and admit that some of our programs need a serious shot of vitamin B12 to reenergize and revitalize.  We need to develop leaders and thinkers that take pride in their work and believe in it.   Breslin calls it a culture of “from head to heart to hands.”  No, he’s not a hippy, kumbaya, lets-hold-hands kind of guy.  He gets it.  Trust me on this one.  I didn’t even scratch the surface here with everything he covers.  You need to check out his website,  It’s worth it, I promise.
Stay tuned for The ESAC Diaries, Part 2: Feed Them and They Will Come.


A Message from Alfred B. Valles, State Director, Hawaii / Pacific

U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Apprenticeship

The "School to Apprenticeship" meets Guam's military needs.  The military plans to relocate 8,000 U.S. Marines and their dependents from Okinawa to Guam by 2014. There also are plans to build an army base to provide missile defense. The existing Air Force and Navy presence also is expected to expand.  The latest price tag for these military expansion projects totals more than $20 billion. The Marine Corps move alone is expected to cost $15 billion. Between 10,000 and 20,000 additional skilled workers are needed for the military construction projects, and most of those workers will have to be brought in from Asia and the Pacific region, according to labor officials. The STA students will be graduating and entering registered apprenticeship programs about the same time when the demands for skilled workers for the Guam’s Military  build-up will be at a peak.

The Kansas Department of Commerce (Commerce) was awarded a USDOL grant in spring 2008. The grant, Registered Apprenticeship WORKS! (RA WORKS!), promotes entry-level certificates in Advanced Manufacturing and Energy and articulates into Registered Apprenticeship opportunities for dislocated workers.
RA WORKS! will enhance methods to identify dislocated workers, expand the current Advanced Manufacturing RA program, pursue the development of Wind Energy Technician as an apprenticeable occupation and build training capacity through distance learning.  Partners in the plan include the Kansas Apprenticeship Council, State & Local Workforce Investment Boards, Postsecondary Institutions, Kansas Board of Regents and Business and Industry.
The grant pays for qualified dislocated workers to earn multiple industry-related certificates, including the Kansas WORKReady! Certificate, Manufacturing Skill Certificate (MSC), and Energy & Process Industry Certificate (EPIC).  It will also fund the cost of Related Technical Instruction (RTI) for employers with a Registered Apprenticeship program in Advanced Manufacturing or Energy.
RA WORKS! was originally piloted in three Local Workforce Areas in Kansas, and all have experienced success with the model.  Now, with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) dollars, Commerce is expanding RA WORKS! throughout the entire state.
ARRA dollars will also be used to expand Registered Apprenticeship opportunities through RA Scholarships.  The RA Scholarships program is available to companies and Joint Labor-Management programs that support Commerce’s critical industries which include: Advanced Manufacturing, Aviation, Bio-Science/Animal Health, Energy, Professional Services and Value-Added Agriculture, as well as Construction and Rural Business Succession.  The objective is to provide an incentive to hire dislocated and underemployed individuals into Registered Apprenticeship opportunities in strategic areas of the Kansas economy.
RA Scholarships will provide up to $500 per year per apprentice toward the cost of RTI for the first two years of training for any qualified dislocated or underemployed individual.
WIA Local Area funds may also be used for supportive services as needed and appropriate for either the RA WORKS! or the RA Scholarships.
Green Job Opening
Posted on May 25, 2009 by Thao Nelson
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All of this talk about green jobs and I found an open position related to Apprenticeship- Superintendent of Maintenance and Security at  Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Conservancy. The Superintendent will play a key role in mentoring our young workforce as they participate in an apprenticeship program. Leadership training is a significant piece of the management role and will be shared with staff in the Education Department.

Let us know of green jobs in your area!

Eaton Hydraulics Registered Apprenticeship Program:
A competency based model for precision manufacturing


The Eaton Hydraulics registered apprenticeship program in Eden Prairie, Minnesota is quickly becoming a model for competency based apprenticeship.  There are three registered programs, all of which are based on the NIMS National Guideline Standards – Machinist, Tool and Die Maker, and Machine Tool Maintenance, Service and Repair Technician. 


The program was developed by Eaton in cooperation with the Minnesota Office of Apprenticeship with technical assistance from the U.S. Department of Labor and approval of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.  In all three programs, competencies are measured and tracked against NIMS national standards and the apprentices earn NIMS credentials as performance measures. The program is overseen by the Joint Committee comprised of management and union representatives and key employees from each of the three apprenticeship areas.  


Eaton’s registered apprenticeship has resulted in several firsts.  Dan Follmer became the nation’s first NIMS Certified Machine Tool Maintenance Technician and Goum Tham became the first NIMS Certified Tool and Die Maker.  Eaton’s Training Director Ron Krueger became one of the first to be certified under the newly developed NIMS certification for company training coordinators.  On Wednesday, May 27, at ceremonies at Eaton, the program will be awarded NIMS National Accreditation, the first industry program to achieve that distinction in Minnesota.


Eaton’s Krueger noted that the program “has made a difference for employees to better understand their positions and their jobs and allows them to better understand not only what they do but how and why and the goals they are trying to attain.”



Under Secretary Solis’s guidance, we have been challenged to re-connect youth and disadvantaged populations to the workforce through multiple career pathways.  I had an opportunity to attend two events that show real potential for some strategic partnerships to help address some parts of this challenge:  (1) a briefing series on Community Colleges at the Department of Education, and (2) a symposium on Capital Hill highlighting the results of four TRIO programs (Upward Bound, Talent Search, Upward Bound – Math/Science, and Student Support Services).

During the briefing at the Department of Education, Diane Troyer from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation talked about a post secondary initiative she is leading for the Foundation.  The more she talked about the need for low income students to obtain affordable credentials that have value in the workplace, are portable, with opportunities to earn and lean, the more I thought about the tremendous partnership opportunities for the Registered Apprenticeship community.

Likewise, the TRIO programs provide support to a pipeline of low income and 1st generation college students that are eager for opportunities that will help prepare them to better their lives through education, and skill attainment.

Although, the ultimate goal for TRIO programs are for students to obtain Bachelorette degrees, the role of the Community College in the students overall success was acknowledged and supported.  So why not encourage these students to obtain high school diplomas, Associates Degrees in conjunction with Registered Apprenticeship programs as well as Bachelorette and Master’s degrees?

The more we partner strategically, the more we position ourselves to provide youth and disadvantaged populations with a wealth of opportunities that provide them the with the education, credentialing and work skills necessary to truly boost our economy and maintain our future economic vitality.





Last week, I was contacted by a gentleman out of East Texas.  The poor man was beside himself.  He had recently been laid off from a plant, along with 500 other workers.  He went into great detail about how he was looking into his options, looking for a sustainable career, how he has a family to support, and that he has a great qualifications from work experience and previous schooling.  He is very interested in joining a registered apprenticeship program.  Bottom line - he's trying to find a new path, one he's being forced to take and was completely unexpected.  His path led him to me. 

I referred him to one of our programs just over the border in our great state of Louisiana, one that I feel he can apply his previous experience to most easily.  I also called the training director and let him know this gentlemen would be contacting him.  Although the training director was happy to talk to him, he made it very clear that they have more apprentices than they can handle since there is less work in the construction industry right now.  I thought to myself, it wasn't that long ago that the opposite was true. Some of our Louisiana program sponsors were desperate for good candidates to apply to their programs, wages were higher (thanks to post-Katrina ramifications), and work was more plentiful.  Now, many of our sponsors are beating off applicants with a stick.  For a split second I wondered what the cause is for this turn of events (it was early morning and my brain wasn't operating at full power yet), and then it occurred to me.  It's the economy, stupid.

When the good folks in the Office of Apprenticeship asked me to be a regular blogger on this site, and then suggested I write about the effects of the economy on registered apprenticeship, I shuddered.  I'll be honest with you, if I had to pick one subject matter that I'd avoid at all costs, it's anything having to do with economics.  Jamming a needle in my eye is a more attractive option.  I barely passed Economics 101 in college.  That and chemistry are two areas I cannot wrap my brain around.  Thankfully, chemistry is not exactly a common topic of conversation.  But the economy is - and will always continue to be.  Lucky for me, you can have an opinion on the economy and not know very much about the economic theory behind it.  Chances are, few people do.

We here in "Sportsman's Paradise" are definitely feeling the affects of this disappointing and difficult economy - particularly on the state level.  Initially, Louisiana was insulated from the economic fall out, and we were very proud of the fact that we were doing so well when the rest of the country was struggling.  Fast forward a year, and the landscape looks very different.  The legislature is cutting and slashing the state budget as we speak, which means less resources for the public, yet far more demand for them due to the seemingly daily plant closings and WARN notices our agency learns about.  These dislocated workers are out there looking for opportunities that will help them survive, and they're going to our one-stops (which in Louisiana are called Business & Career Solution Centers) in record numbers. 

This leads me to my next dilemma.  How do I move our integration action plan forward in our Centers under these conditions?  It's not appropriate to push our frontline staff to refer jobseekers to apprenticeship programs when many of those programs can't take them.  Their application logs are growing longer by the day.

Closer to home, I'm personally struggling with how to promote registered apprenticeship and recruit new program sponsors, given an economy that is straining to keep its head above water.  Employers are making significant reductions to their workforce, dealing with declining revenue - so I keep hearing that the last thing they are going to focus on is a training model that will add another line item to their balance sheet - and it's hard to argue with that.  Or is it?

It seems my inaugural blog is asking more than telling, so I'm tossing this back to you.  What do you think? How is your state handling this?  Do you feel like registered apprenticeship has taken a hit or slowed down?  Do you have a good argument for employers to utilize the program despite budget woes?  Please comment below and add your two cents.  We want to hear from you!  Share your expertise with others. 

Don't forget to keep an eye out for my June blog, "The ESAC Diaries."



Over the last few months, and increasingly over just the last few weeks, we’ve seen a noticeable increase of Apprenticeship in the news, and even more encouraging, an increase in the mention of Apprenticeship by President Obama and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis during remarks related to economic recovery and employment options for dislocated workers.  Those remarks have been highlighted here on the CoP several times lately and it’s created added excitement and energy to our work here in the National Office.  There is an audible change in the air regarding future opportunities for expanding Apprenticeship to train U.S. workers for today’s jobs.


Is this increase in energy and excitement evident in your state or region?  Have you seen opportunities for expanding Apprenticeship’s reach increase?  What’s the word on the street - or the talk around the water cooler - or the buzz; or any of those other catchy ways of asking if you feel this increase in energy and opportunity also?


Would love to hear from those of you outside of Washington D.C. and get a sense of the Registered Apprenticeship chatter in your area.  For us here in the National office it is a busy and exciting time, as I’m sure it is for all of you.  With Recovery Act activities underway and Recovery and Reemployment Summits making their way from region to region, I thought it would be a good time to check the pulse if you will and ask everyone what they are hearing, seeing and doing around Registered Apprenticeship.  Let us hear from some of you on what industries you’re focusing on, and what new partnership you may be exploring.  I am looking for an ‘outside of the beltway’ perspective on what the near future may hold for those of us in the Apprenticeship world.  I know; lots of questions……but I think it’s great to hear from our colleagues, partners and apprentices in the field to help us make sure our goals and strategies align with yours.  Take a moment and let us know….Is the energy we feel here resonating where you work and live?

You never know what you're going to find online.  The internet is so ubiquitous and we adopt so much of the cyberculture in our everyday lives -- did you ever think you'd be saying "Google" every day? -- that we may not have thought about using some of the most widely visited sites to conduct outreach and education about our programs.

Just visit You Tube and search for "apprenticeship," or add more keywords to refine the results.  You'll see that there are a lot of videos posted that tell the story of apprentices and their work.  Click on some of them.  They can be pretty good! logo - California Apprenticeship

The California Department of Industrial Relations put together the "I Built It!" campaign to highlight opportunities in construction apprenticeships.  This series of 15- and 30-second public service announcements stars actual apprentices on the job, telling their stories in sound bites and quick visual scenes.  With titles like "I"m on Top of the World!' and "I'm Having a Blast!" that can describe a real day on a construction job, the campaign uses humor and the enthusiasm of the workers to get the point across.  Oh, and the excellent pay and benefits are mentioned too, as well as the sense of accomplishment these apprentices enjoy from completing a high rise building, a bridge, or a new freeway.

What do you think about posting your promotional videos on You Tube and other online venues?

Those who have been involved in the registered apprenticeship system know that with every registered apprenticeship program there is a component of related instruction that is at least 144 hours per year for the term of the program.  Related instruction or classroom training is intended to supplement the training experience of the apprentice and provide the theory needed to master aspects of the trade.


Many states provide in their regulations on registered apprenticeship that there must be related instruction tied to the on-the-job learning experience. Some states actually lay out the curricula, and at what point in the apprenticeship the particular lessons should be taught.  Other states have specific agencies that oversee the related instruction aspect of the apprenticeship and sign off on the completion of segments of the required related training.


Many people unfamiliar with the registered apprenticeship system don’t realize that there is a related instruction aspect to apprenticeship.


Since registered apprenticeship is somewhat flexible, related training can also be flexible depending on the registration agency (State or Federal) and what they will approve. Programs may give credit for previous education and or previous on-the-job learning.  In some states there is great concern for related training and in some states the related training is left to the program sponsor.


Programs might have related training:

  • One night a week for the school year
  • One weekend a month
  • Two weeks a year
  • Night school at a community college or technical high school
  • Correspondence course
  • Distance or E-courses on-line (see attached: At a Glance: Electronic Media in Related Instruction Apprenticeship Final Rule, 29 CFR Part 29)
  • Associate degree programs
  • Other


In joint labor/management programs (commonly called joint apprenticeship committees) related training is usually provided free of cost to the apprentice.  Open shop or merit shop programs also provide related instruction to their registered apprentices, sometimes at the sponsor’s expense, sometimes at the apprentice’s expense.


Sponsors take related training seriously because the apprentices learn theory that will make them more productive on the job.  Classroom training can be costly but the reality is that it would be more costly if there was no training.  Some sponsors, through recruitment, seek out individuals with higher levels of education prior to indenturing them as apprentices.  I have seen large companies have their own school in-plant and companies utilize institutions of higher learning for their instruction.  Cost and quality are always a concern and with some industries, training departments are the first to cut back.


Courses taught in related education classes can be designed for many trades such as math, blueprint reading, tools, soft skills etc. or courses for the specific trade i.e. electrician, plumber, LPN, etc.


I think that related instruction education is one of the key components of registered apprenticeship.  What do you think?





How is electronic media addressed in the revised regulations?

The revised regulations, specifically 29.5(b)(4), include electronic media among the ways that a registered apprenticeship program can meet the requirements to provide organized, related instruction in technical subjects related to the occupation.  Electronic media is defined in 29.2 to mean media that utilize electronics or electromechanical energy for the end user to access the content (e.g. electronic storage media, the Internet, extranets, private networks, etc). The revised regulations do not require apprenticeship programs to use electronic media; rather they permit use of electronic media as a tool to support industry learning styles. The extent to which an apprenticeship program incorporates electronic media depends on the learning objectives of the particular occupation associated with an apprenticeship program. The regulations retain other methods of related instruction such as classroom, occupation or industry courses, or other instruction approved by the Registration Agency.


How was the issue addressed in the original regulations?

Previously, the regulations did not specifically authorize the use electronic media as a means to provide related instruction.


What is the reason for the change?

By including the use of electronic media in the definition of related instruction, the revised regulations now fully support technology-based and distance learning. The inclusion of electronic media is necessary to align the National Apprenticeship System with technological advances and appropriate industry application of such advances in the delivery of related instruction. For further information, please refer to pages 64409, 64410 of the Federal Register Notice for the final rule (73 FR 64402, Oct. 29, 2008).


What are the next steps?

The final rule was published October 29, 2008, in the Federal Register, and takes effect on December 29, 2008. The final rule provides State Apprenticeship Agencies (SAAs) with two years from the effective date, with extensions as needed, to implement necessary changes.  The Office of Apprenticeship (OA) recognizes that program sponsors and providers of related instruction may require more information and clarification regarding electronic media. OA will consult with SAAs to develop and issue further guidance illustrating the appropriate use of electronic media. This information will be posted on the OA regulations Web page.  For more information about the revised regulations, please contact OA at (202) 693 2796 or


Just read the latest article  in American Machinist about the best kept secret- Apprenticeship.  Peter Alpern writes, "Apprenticeships remain one of the most vital sources for new talent in manufacturing. At a time when the industry is faced with a shortage of highly skilled workers, apprenticeships offer companies the chance to train young, eager workers in a sophisticated trade for years at a time. These programs, like the planting of seeds, require careful cultivation. But with that patience and investment, employers can derive long-term answers to industry’s workforce challenges."   Read More.

Check out Secretary Solis’s comments from her interview with Betty Nguyen on ‘CNN Newsroom’ last Friday. Apprenticeship is mentioned as a training option to get people back to work.   Also noted are several references to One-Stops, training, and jobs in energy, health care and IT; and mention of the $250 million health care and IT SGA; and the $500 million Green SGA DOL will be issuing in June. 

What are your thoughts about Apprenticeship as one solution towards economic recovery?

The President last week held a news conference where he discussed the unemployment numbers and highlighted a new joint Education and Labor Web site for unemployed workers,, and ALSO mentioned Apprenticeship as a training option.  Check out the excerpt below that mentions Apprenticeship:

"... And to that end, I have asked once again every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training.  It can be community college or a four-year school; vocational training or an apprenticeship; but whatever the training may be, every American will need to get more than a high school diploma.  And we will be backing up that effort with the support necessary.  And we will ensure that by 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world...."

Click Here for a full transcript.

High Quality Instructors

In the years I have been involved with registered apprenticeship (RA) programs, I have heard on more than one occasion that career and technical education plays a lesser role than academic education in our nation’s K-16 system. Meanwhile, many of our RA programs are spending substantial sums of money on remediating their incoming apprentices. Be these issues perception or truth, it is in our best interest to ensure that our RA programs recruit and develop the best craftspeople in order provide high quality instruction to our apprentices. This cannot be accomplished merely by hiring the best carpenter or plumber from the field and hoping s/he has a knack for passing on the tips of the trade.


In fact, performing well within one’s trade requires a totally different skill set than that of an instructor. Therefore, it is incumbent upon each Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee to establish a pathway for incoming instructors to earn the credentials that provide the pedagogical tools to become high quality instructors. These tools should include mentoring: placing new instructors with veteran instructors who exhibit excellence and defined professional development: including participating in formal coursework as well as related-conferences, workshops, etc. It seems that human nature tends to push most of us towards taking the path of least resistance. Accordingly, benchmarks must be established and met (See a sample framework below). And, most importantly, instructors need to be supported throughout this process…in both moral and financial terms (i.e., tuition, books, etc.).


HQI Rubric—

Step 1                   Obtain a permanent state teacher’s license within four years of one’s hire date

                                (Raise to industry foreman rate)


Step 2                   Obtain an Associate’s degree within six years of one’s hire date

                                (Raise to industry general foreman rate)


Step 3                   Obtain a Bachelor’s degree within 10 years of one’s hire date

                                (Raise to industry superintendant rate)


Step 4                   Obtain two of the three following:

                                A related Master’s degree;

                                An industry-related Train-the-Trainer (i.e., OSHA 500, AWS-CWI/CWE, etc.);


                                Serve 10 years on the shop floor as an instructor in good standing.

                                (Annual $2500 holiday bonus)


As you may have noticed, the recently updated and approved standards (29CFR29) include requirements for instructor quality. Ultimately, if we want to be treated like professionals then it is time we begin acting like professionals!


“Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.”                         --RFK--



For more on teacher quality.  Click here


I was just talking to someone who teaches sociology at a community college. She told me that she tells students that if they want to make money they need to go into the trades. Our plumber makes $65 an hour--I think almost as much as some of my doctors! I don't know many college graduates with a BA who can make that much money. Plus they have student debt as opposed to apprentices who don't. Jennifer made a really good choice. It's also great to have the President and the Secretary of Labor who appreciate the value of apprenticeship in economic growth and frequently promote it. I was on the White House website and did a word search on "apprenticeship" and found it several times. It even looks like President Obama is incorporating apprenticeship into his stock speech as being a post-secondary option for training the workforce.


Check out this link!


Examples are below:

Liveblog: The Task Force's first meeting

efficiency money in the ARRA, how do we help spend it in a way that greats good jobs? Van: The moment is now. The money is here. Now it is about doing it right. Because we could do this poorly and wrong. But let's do it well and right, by: Using our existing workforce development mechanisms, community colleges, and labor apprenticeship programs. Sticking to High standards. The best trained workers in this area are our labor members. Help them bring it to...

Remarks of the Vice President at the First Meeting of the Middle Class Task Force, Panel One

you two hours of training and that's it.  No, what we're talking about here is like what they did in L.A.  In L.A. there is electrical training (inaudible) southern California, a labor management partnership, jointly sponsored by a union in the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and a business coalition of private contractors.  The training required is like -- is required under an apprenticeship model, requiring over 1,000 hours of...

Remarks of President Barack Obama -- Address to Joint Session of Congress

will expand our commitment to charter schools.   It is our responsibility as lawmakers and educators to make this system work.  But it is the responsibility of every citizen to participate in it.  And so tonight, I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training.  This can be community college or a four-year school; vocational training or an apprenticeship.  But whatever the training...


A message from Jennifer Murphy, our featured Apprentice-

Of course I’d heard of Apprenticeship.  Ben Franklin,  Johnny Tremain, and Mickey Mouse were all Apprentices!  All three learning a skilled trade from a master of his craft.  But as I recall, Mickey got in a real jam, Johnny melted his hand in a vat of molten silver, and Ben became a fugitive when he broke the law by running away.  So of course, I had HEARD of Apprenticeship, I just never thought I would ever be IN one--  I didn’t even know Apprenticeships still existed!  Funny thing though;  I took a Labor Studies course my last year in college and my class read a book called “Hard Hatted Women” by Molly Martin and by the time I put that book down, in my mind I was already halfway through my own Apprenticeship!

I could hear the diesel rumble of trucks. I could see the faint pink tint of the bottomless sky when the sun is just barely waking up and when most people are still sunk deep in their dreams and pillows.  I smelled the smoke that reminds me of 4th of July coming off the welder’s stick.  I felt the aliveness and freshness and excitement and possibility that comes from creating something and that’s how I knew I wanted to be a construction worker; an electrician.   It took me a few more years after college to find the right Apprenticeship program in the right city for me.  In that time I served my community for 2 years with AmeriCorps--one year renovating campgrounds at a National Park and one year recruiting volunteers for a Big Brother Big Sister program.  After that I tried lots of jobs!  I worked making electron micrographs at a  museum, I sold camping supplies, I served lattes, and  I even made my big Hollywood splash as an extra in one episode of a sitcom!  There was something great about every job I’ve ever had, and I always showed up early, worked hard and learned everything I could.

I was open minded and willing to give anything a try. Those years were fun, and adventurous. 

But always in the back of my mind I kept wondering when I would get a “real” job.  Many of my college friends were moving on through grad school, getting married and buying houses.  I really didn’t know what my next move was going to be.  I loved bicycling, so a friend offered to help get me a job as a bicycle messenger.  He had been one for over 10 years.  He was 40, had no emergency savings, no health insurance, no retirement, no car, and he was making $9 an hour.   I took one long look at his life, another long look at my life, and decided it was time for me to get started with my career!

I was accepted into the IBEW Local 11 Inside Wireman Apprenticeship Program in June of 2004.  For the past 4 years and 10 months I’ve gotten all the diesel rumbling, early mornings, welders smoke, and excitement I was looking for-- and more!  I now have years of on the job experience, I am a full member of the IBEW, I get “real” paychecks, health insurance, and a pension.  The Apprenticeship program has given me an education, a professional network, and the chance to make a name for myself in the electrical industry.   I’ll be a journeyman in June.  --Jennifer Murphy

Thanks, Thao, for bringing forward the issue of vocational technical education.

Technical education remains the foundation of precision manufacturing.  If we are to continue to be the world’s leader in manufacturing, technical education needs support and at many levels.

Technical education also provides entry into career ladders in which the entrant can reach the very top of the industry.  Many of the owners and leaders of companies in today’s manufacturing world received their start in a technical high school, community college, apprenticeship program or some combination of the above.

There was a recurring theme that secondary education should be a time of “academic enrichment,’ a time when technical education and training should be ignored.  That very short sightedness ignores the successes of thousands of bright young men and women being educated in hundreds of programs throughout the nation.  To the contrary, what is needed is a system that exposes our youth to options and enables them to choose career paths at the point in time that is right for them.  

So much of the nation’s industry is on the shoulders of the technical instructors who are at once responsible for recruiting students, as well as educating them.  School administrators often are forced to make decision based on revenue and expense of programs.  As one community college president told me, “I can put six classrooms where the machining lab is and at far less expense.”  She remained committed and today that program is generating well educated manufacturing professionals for the future.

I have this diagram in my mind.  It’s an inverted triangle.  At the top is the manufacturing workforce comprised of 13 million people.  At the bottom is a technical instructor, alone in a forgotten wing or basement of a school, and on whose shoulders the workforce stands.

And it’s not just education for the very young entrants.  It’s the place where adults, seeking reemployment or better careers can find that new start.

We need to surround the instructors and administrators with support from our companies and from all levels of government. We need to continue to receive financial support at the national and state levels.  We need to send a positive message to the local school boards and to assist the instructors in marketing, recruiting and with adapting programs to the latest technological advances.

How good can it be?  The top three officers of the NIMS Board all were manufacturing apprentices.

How good can it be? Join me this summer at the SkillsUSA National Championship in Kansas City, Missouri and see the fruits of quality technical education. 

Can’t get to Kansas City?  Join me in DC this Fall when the top medalists of our apprenticeship competition return from a tour of Swiss manufacturing companies and share first hand their vision of their future.

 “Integration! Integration!  Integration!”  We have heard that word a lot, we have planted our integration seeds, and we are starting to see the fruits of our labor.  I thought I would give a springtime analogy since winter is finally over, I hope.  Anyway, back to my topic…I suppose if you ask what integration means you may get many different thoughts and opinions.  Seeing how I am rarely at short supply of either, I decided to share with you my thoughts on the matter.  To me Integration is coordinating the registered apprenticeship system with the workforce delivery system in a more efficient, cost-effective manner while improving services for customers.  Put simply, “integration” is the means of achieving a goal; it is not a goal unto itself.  The goal is twofold: (1) better service to workers and business; and (2) greater efficiency in our systems.  Throughout this entire process of integration, no matter which agency or organization I am working with…workforce, labor, business, community based, and faith based the one constant fact that must be remembered: Integration is merely a means of attaining better service and efficiency and that is the approach and attitude I take when integrating apprenticeship services with workforce, partners, and customers.  OK that is my two-cent worth.  Somebody else throw in a couple of pennies please…..      

The Washington Area Women in the Trades program provides 12 weeks of pre-vocational, pre-apprenticeship training for high wage jobs in non-traditional occupations such as construction.  Check out the marketing video. 

What are you doing to market apprenticeship opportunities to women in your area?