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This blog has been cross-posted from the SEIU Healthcare NW Training Partnership /SEIU Healthcare NW Health Benefits Trust.  

by Charissa Raynor and Johan E. Uvin

- See more at:


Health Plan Benefit Changes Info Sessions
Health Plan Benefit Changes Info Sessions
Health Benefits Trust
Health Benefits Trust

The U.S. workforce is in crisis. Today, 36 million adults in our country are considered low-skilled. This means about 1 in 6 American adults lack the ability to spell, read, and write and about 1 in 3 lack the ability to do basic math. These are the basic skills that 21st century employers need as they look to fill millions of current job vacancies. Meanwhile, the majority of working adults with low skills earn meager wages with little to no pathways for career advancement into the middle class. The skills gap also has serious social and economic implications for an individual’s overall quality of life. Adults with low skills are also four times more likely to report poor to fair health than those with higher skills. Needless to say, the economic consequences for our country are significant.

These alarming statistics are a call to action for government, business, labor, industry, and nonprofit leaders. This effort requires bold leadership, shared investment, and a strong commitment to adopting high-impact solutions at all levels of the public and private sector. As the first of a two-part blog discussion, we pose a set of questions to keep in mind as we come together to address the needs of America’s adult education and workforce development systems.

1. How do we re-think “who’s part of the team” in creating opportunities for current and future workers to improve their skills and put them to use in their next level job? We need to rethink and subsequently, transform current “skills building infrastructure” beyond traditional adult basic education classes. Currently, federal and state partnerships invest roughly 2.2 billion in resources to address the skills crisis. This means opportunity for only 2 million of the 36 million who need help. This is why government, business, labor, education, and workforce development communities share a joint responsibility for skills development. None of us can solve the crisis alone; we need everyone on the team. All of these sectors stand to benefit from better skills – as do workers themselves. These collective efforts must focus on shared goals and outcomes by incentivizing action and outcomes in ways that benefit everyone involved.

2. How can technology play a role in raising skills so skills can pay the bills? Expanding access to tens of millions of working adults requires not only leveraging new and existing resources, but also reducing the cost of delivery. Technology is perhaps the top strategy in cost reduction. Here we mean not only costs of delivery, but opportunity costs for working adults themselves. Today, technology exists that allows adults to learn any time, any place, and at their own pace with demonstrable reduction in costs and time to complete, while maintaining or improving learning outcomes. Learning optimized for mobile devices is widely available as are the mobile devices themselves, which are virtually ubiquitous even among low-skilled workers. Technology has the added, but often overlooked benefit, of creating unprecedented transparency into the data of learning, which will accelerate systems improvements needed to rapidly innovate for higher impact. We now need to apply and scale the use of learning technology to open the doors of access to millions more than are served today.

3. How can Registered Apprenticeships pave the way for workers to move from endless low-paying jobs to better-paying, middle-class jobs?  Registered Apprenticeships and other formal models where adults “earn and learn” are an under-utilized solution. Most low-skill adults are working and must continue working to put food on the table and pay the bills. Often, that leaves little time for learning. This is where Registered Apprenticeships come in. It is a proven model for building a skilled workforce through on-the-job training and classroom learning.  Understanding its value, President Obama wants to double Registered Apprenticeship opportunities in five years. This commitment brings new resources and solutions to our skills crisis, but also raises questions about what an apprenticeship is and how it works for many. Today’s modernized Registered Apprenticeship is not just for the traditional trades. Programs exist in nearly every industry, including health care, IT and advanced manufacturing, and hold enormous promise for expanding access and opportunity for women, people of color, and other underrepresented groups.  Modernization also brings competency-based apprenticeships, which measure student progress by demonstration of competencies rather than hours spent inside a classroom. As President Obama recently emphasized, modernized Registered Apprenticeship programs offer real opportunity, which is what all hard working Americans want and deserve. 

Today’s workforce crisis is our shared challenge, opportunity, and responsibility. We can’t rely just on government or employers or labor or “you.” We need everyone “in” to get the job done. New technologies, a revamped adult education system, and 21st century modernized Registered Apprenticeships will help get us there. We have the tools and the resources to define our future instead of being defined by our past. What we need now is leadership, commitment, and investment to move high impact solutions rapidly. Are you “in?" 

Charisaa Raynor has served as a member of the Secretary of Labor's Advisory Committee on Apprenticeship. Johan E. Uvin has been a key contributor and partner in the U.S. Department of Labor's efforts to establish the Registered Apprenticeship-College Consortium, developed to enable graduates of Registered Apprenticeship to receive college credit toward an associate or bachelor degree for work and education completed during their rigorous on-the-job and classroom training.   

Authored By: MARTIN J. WALSH on AUGUST 18, 2014

This blog was originally posted to the Department of Labor Official Blog Page on August 18, 2014

Editor’s note: The following guest post is authored by Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh.

As a young man, I followed my father’s footsteps and became a laborer. Later, when I became the General Agent of the Boston Building Trades, I could see clearly that women and people of color were underrepresented in the trades. In partnership with other community stakeholders, I created the Building Pathways pre-apprenticeship program to create more opportunities like those my father and I enjoyed, because I know that apprenticeship is one of the most effective paths for people looking to reach the middle class.

Building Pathways is a 6-week program that introduces women and people of color to careers in the building trades, followed by a guaranteed placement into an apprenticeship program. The intensive program is a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on occupational skills training, with a strong emphasis on career readiness. To date, 103 people have graduated and been placed in 17 trades.

One of them is Tyiesha Thompson, a resident of South Boston and a single mother. When I met her, Tyiesha was receiving transitional assistance and looking for work. She needed more than a job to take care of her family; she needed a career. When she found a flyer for the program in the hallway of her housing development, she knew it would be the right course for her.

Tyiesha is now going into her third year of apprenticeship with the Heating and Frost Insulators. Not only is she learning more about the technical aspects of her trade, she is able to take care of her family and has stopped receiving public assistance. This fall her son will be attending his first year of college at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts to study biology. She is confident that with her retirement benefits, she will not have to worry about who will take care of her in old age.

The key to the success of Building Pathways is that we created partnerships with the Boston Housing Authority and the participating trade unions. It was their steadfast belief that by creating this pre-apprenticeship pipeline, they could attract qualified and dedicated members of their trade, while providing an opportunity for low-income women and people of color to build careers. Leaders across the country can use this model to look for opportunities to partner with other public, private and nonprofit organizations to find mutually beneficial solutions.

As I look across the Boston skyline, I see cranes in every direction. It is an exciting time - Boston is growing smartly at a rapid rate, as we are creating housing and office towers and opening new shops and restaurants. Behind all of these cranes and new shiny developments, however, I also see the hardworking people who come to the job site every day. People like my father and Tyiesha Thompson. These good construction jobs are helping middle class families put food on the table, purchase homes, and send their children to school. By working together, we can ensure a strong middle class and put the American Dream in reach for people across the country.

Working with the Obama administration on initiatives like My Brother’s Keeper, and with other urban American mayors on the Cities of Opportunity Task Force, we are looking at ways to scale this program, and transfer it to other industries. We ask you to help us with this. By creating a strong 21st-century workforce and by creating good jobs, we will grow the middle class. And a strong  middle class builds a strong country.

For more information on the Building Pathways program, call 617-282-2242.

CDPS hosts a conversation on apprenticeships in manufacturing

By Jason Keller

Cross-posted from Chicago Fed Blogs
Originally posted at Chicago Fed Blogs by Jason Keller and Emily Engel

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA), registered apprenticeship, a model for preparing new generations of skilled workers that can be traced back to the Middle Ages, remains an important method for training and placing workers. The current surge in apprenticeship has evolved from emphasizing learning in the traditional construction trades toward a focus today on new and emerging industries, such as energy, health care, and information technology for example. Today’s apprentices are registered in “earn and learn” work programs with expert mentors in their fields, allowing them to accumulate knowledge and build skills over time. The apprentice benefits by earning a fair wage as well as obtaining industry-recognized credentials and/or college credits. The 150,000 employers and other labor management organizations who already participate in the program also benefit because apprentices are not only placed on a structured learning track, but the industry-based training is specifically designed to meet employers’ current standards and practices. The various programs also have the capacity to track trends in demand, deploy resources, and match workers according to need. The success of apprenticeships’ on-the-job learning, combined with related technical instruction, leads toward a more highly skilled and highly productive workforce.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago has long been interested in employment conditions as it seeks to promote the Fed’s dual mandate of maximum employment and sustainable economic growth.[1] For example, in 2011, Community Development and Policy Studies (CDPS), a division of the Chicago Fed, launched its Industrial Cities Initiative.[2] Known as ICI, this study took a closer look at ten former industrial/manufacturing hubs and their economic evolution over the last 50 years. The ICI paid particular attention to the labor force in these cities and the steps taken by local leaders, community colleges, and other labor organizations to meet demand for vocational and technical training by major employers.

In April 2014, the White House announced that the United States Department of Labor (DOL) will make $100 million in existing H-1B funds[3] available in the form of American Apprenticeship Grants. Expected to launch in the fall, this will be a competitive application process to award grants to partnerships that help American workers participate in structured apprenticeship programs. The grants are intended to encourage new apprenticeships by incentivizing employers, labor organizations, and training providers to work cooperatively. Awards are also intended to promote apprenticeships as pathways for further learning and career advancement, as well as to bring-to-scale exemplary models that work.[4]

To better inform the business and civic communities about this renewed commitment to the apprenticeship model and solicit feedback, the DOL worked with local intermediaries to hold a series of industry roundtables across the country throughout the month of June. The meetings brought together local leaders, employers, and labor organizations each with a vested interest in workforce development. The sessions were segregated by cluster: transportation and logistics (Atlanta), health care (Boston), construction (Washington DC), energy (Houston), and information technology (San Francisco).[5] The session held at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago on June 19 focused entirely on manufacturing by bringing together nearly 100 policymakers and practitioners on the topic of apprenticeship.

At the Chicago roundtable, Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez[6] explained that the apprenticeship model is a “linchpin” and a “catalyst” toward sustainable economic vitality and job growth in this country. His remarks set the stage for an informative discussion on the needs, challenges, opportunities, and solutions for using apprenticeships in both traditional and advanced manufacturing.

Roundtable attendees were asked to comment on the following questions:

?  What are your current and future talent needs?

?  How can registered apprenticeships meet those needs?

?  What are the challenges to using registered apprenticeships?

?  What innovative solutions could be expanded and replicated?

?  What support is needed to advance registered apprenticeship efforts?

Results from the June roundtables will help the DOL determine if current federal policy pertaining to apprenticeship programs is effective or if additional enhancements are needed.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago appreciated the opportunity to engage with the DOL in this important discussion. For more information on CDPS, please visit the Community Development & Policy Studies home page.[7] Additionally a recent ProfitWise News and Views article, Community Colleges and Industry: How Partnerships Address the Skills Gap[8] provides more information about community college and industry partnerships in the Seventh Federal Reserve District states of Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan.

[1] See the Federal Reserve System mission statement, available at

[2] See the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago’s Industrial Cities Initiative, available at

[3] H-1B funds projects that provide training and related activities to workers to assist them in gaining the skills and competencies needed to obtain or upgrade employment in high-growth industries or economic sectors.

[4] The White House, available at

[5] American Apprenticeships: Industry Roundtable, available at:

[6] Thomas E. Perez biography, available at:

[7] See Community Development and Policy Studies, available at

[8] See ProfitWise News and Views, available at