Comment on a post

We need your comments to help our community flourish. Provide your Professional thoughts and opinions by replying to a post that interests you.

Become a Guest Blogger

Are you a expert in the topics being discussed on this site? Connect with our site moderators to request guest blogger privileges.
Become a Guest Blogger

Commenting Policy

Be sure to check our Comment Policy before participating!
Please save the date for the upcoming Out-Educate and Out-Build Apprenticeship celebration. Join Secretary Hilda Solis on the National Mall in Washington, DC on June 6!

For more information, please follow this link and download the attached PDF file:
Editor's Note: This is a really good blog written by Teresa Welsh who just graduated with a degree in Journalism and Latin American Studies.  She's still hunting for a job and provided her perspective on trade schools versus the traditional four year degrees.

It’s no secret: the economy sucks. In fact, Americans are currently the most pessimistic they’ve been in the past two years regarding the state of the economy. For recent college grads, the picture is especially bleak: we’re forced out into the world, degree in hand, expectantly knocking on the doors of potential employers.

One problem: no one is answering.

Members of the American middle class spend their entire lives hearing a litany of the merits of secondary education: stay in school, study hard, get good test scores, graduate, get good job. You can’t get one without doing all this, and especially not without a college degree. You spend Saturdays in the library instead of at the football game because you know studying is important and, ultimately, that’s why you’re in college. And you’ll be rewarded for those sacrifices with an entry-level position in white collar field, with opportunity to move up, save money, buy a car, buy a home, and achieve the American Dream.

Yet as a 2010 college graduate, this has not been my experience. I easily know more of my peers who have moved back home with their parents than who are employed and living on their own. Some jumped right into grad school to further delay their debut in The Real World. It’s not that we want to regress back to living with Mom and Dad—it’s that we can’t afford to do anything else (although I’m sure there are those out there who want nothing more to snuggle back in to their childhood room and the comforts of home cooking after four years of substandard housing conditions and microwave meals).

A college degree, which we’ve been told our whole lives is the ticket to success, is instead a ticket on the (seemingly) one-way train right back to Mom and Dad.

What if a four-year college degree is no longer the ticket to our future? What if the real ticket only takes two years? And what if it has the words Trade School stamped on it, instead of Four-year University?

Trade schools or vocational schools have always been second-tier after a four-year degree in the American secondary education system. You’d be kidding yourself if those of you who went on to a four-year school didn’t think you were going to end up ahead of those who went to school for carpentry or plumbing or car mechanics or even culinary arts. So what has trade school got that a four-year school doesn’t, and why does it, at least in this economy, seem to be the smarter path to self-sufficient adulthood?

City Room: Trading College for Trade School YouTube Video.

Programs that teach you practical skills

In plumbing and car mechanics training, they teach you how to be a plumber, and how to be a car mechanic (duh). In many liberal arts programs at four-year schools, students pick majors like “philosophy” and “sociology” and “English.” So, you know how to philosophize? And….socialize? And speak English? And we wonder why employers aren’t throwing themselves at us.

It’s cheaper

Many graduates of four-year universities are left with thousands of dollars of debt—41% of all federal student loan borrowers are delinquent or default on their loans within the first five years of repayment. Vocational school can be completed for under $5,000, where one look at this table shows how four-year programs have been steadily increasing in cost. A look at Column 11, the tuition and required fees for four-year institutions, shows a cost of $1,218 for the 1976-77 school year. Cost for 2009-10? $12,467.

Programs are shorter

A four-year university degree takes four years (again, duh). Many trade school programs are completed in less time (many do have required paid apprenticeship programs), so not only do you pay less per semester, you finish quicker and are employable faster—and those with practical skills are more employable than ever.

If it aint broke…

These days, people can’t afford new cars, so instead they take the squeaky breaks on the ol’ jalopy into the mechanic and see what can be done. The same goes for houses, washing machines, dishwashers, and other indispensible objects of modern life. Indeed, the market for technical maintenance is larger than ever as Americans are (seemingly) buying less and preserving more.

I majored in journalism and Latin American Studies. Does the economic crisis – not to mention the digitalization of the media industry – result in an increase in the demand for journalists?

I wish.

I do feel my degree has value, and I do indeed believe our country is in need of a well educated, informed, socially engaged citizenry. Whether we like it or not, the economy and actions of the United States dictate conditions around the world. Thus, we have a responsibility not only to ourselves but to the world to ensure our policy makers and leaders are well educated, as are the people electing them.

But I also think our country needs people to have jobs.

College graduates do ultimately earn more. So when Millenials finally do land jobs in the professional track they set their sights on when they began school, they can expect to earn an average of $45,400 a year during their careers. Those who graduated from high school will average $25,900.

So, at the end of the day, am I sorry I went to a four-year university? No. Do I wish I had a full-time job? Yes.

Maine State Flag




While Maine’s apprenticeship program is small in comparison to other states (1,696 registered apprentices), it continues to be valued by employers in both traditional and emerging industries. The majority of Maine businesses are very small (less than 10 employees); a fact making it very difficult to market the value to prospective sponsors. However, Maine is taking steps to address this by engaging and partnering with industry associations that can communicate directly with their industry members on behalf of apprenticeship. Similarly, Maine experiences issues with matching individuals who are interested in pursuing apprenticeship with employers who wish to recruit apprentices.


Maine’s Apprenticeship Action Team has been working to address these challenges by:

?         Encouraging employers to list their apprenticeship opportunities on Maine’s Job Bank

?         Working to establish a new venue for adult dislocated workers to enter apprenticeship through an Adult Pre-Apprenticeship preparatory program.


The “Pre-App-Prep” program would be based loosely on the AFL-CIO’s Building and Construction Trades Multi-Craft Core Curriculum, but would be specific to the particular industry that is recruiting apprentices. The program would be a first step in integrating Workforce Investment Act (WIA) and Apprenticeship in Maine. The Pre-App-Prep program would recruit eligible participants from Maine CareerCenters and use workforce investment funds to pay the cost of the program for each individual. An up-front agreement with industry members hiring for specific occupations would be necessary in initiating a Pre-App-Prep program.


The parameters of the program would be as follows:

  • Engage group of employer/sponsors who are actively recruiting for a specific trade to help define and endorse the program and enter into agreement to hire a specific number of successful completers. This has been discussed and well received by several Maine industry associations.
  • Provide a thorough assessment to prospective trainees that would including assessment of occupational aptitudes and interests, work preferences, academic and physical capabilities and other applicant attributes critical to success in a particular trade/occupation or industry.
  • Introduction to Apprenticeship (Parameters, Requirements, Benefits, Term, etc.).
  • Introduction to Industry
  • Safety Training (OSHA, CPR, First Aid, Other)
  • A Work Ready component for those who requiring employment competency assistance
  • Specific entry level trade skills courses
  • Overview of the technology of the trade (tools, equipment, computers etc.)


The program would culminate in an industry approved certificate and would meet a first step of entry into apprenticeship. At this point, the trainees would be hired and begin their formal apprenticeship.


The WIA cost per participant could range from $1,500 to $2,500, depending on the trade and the partners offering the training. Maine anticipates using the MDOL SafetyWorks! program and industry volunteers for some components. Assessment would be conducted by the CareerCenters. Academic refreshers (in math or science for example) would be provided by Adult Education and specific industry courses would be provided by the union, a community college or other approved training provider. Some apprentices may continue to receive WIA-funded support and/or case management services during their transition to employment/registered apprenticeship.


The Pre-App-Prep program would:

?         Provide CareerCenter staff with a venue to refer clients interested in apprenticeship

?         Result in significant savings in “occupational training” costs for the workforce investment system

?         Result in WIA required performance measures and significant savings to employer/sponsors in recruitment, retention, and up-front training costs associated with new hires.


Maine recently received a Health Care Sector Grant from the USDOL-ETA. A component of the grant is the development of apprenticeship programs for this industry. Maine has strict licensing requirements for most of the Health Care occupations covered by the grant – specifically nursing, which makes it difficult to apprentice for these occupations. Alternately, Certified Nursing Assistants can be trained and licensed in Maine in 400 hours. The Health Care sector in Maine has expressed a real interest in apprenticeship, as most of the skill sets required in the nursing fields are acquired after graduation from programs.


Four groups of grant stakeholders (education, industry, workforce, apprenticeship) are working to develop new apprenticeship programs for the industry. One will be a Pre-App-Prep program that will launch an individual on a career path and that will begin with C.N.A. certification. In addition, it will provide ongoing education that will allow a C.N.A. to advance as a C.N.A. II or go into other allied health occupations within their employer setting.


Partners from the University of Maine in Augusta, Maine General Health (MGH, an umbrella including numerous hospitals and long-term care providers) and the Maine Apprenticeship Program will be working to develop an Associate to Bachelor Degree Nurse Residency Apprenticeship. While still in early stages, this apprenticeship program intends to address a number of issues:

a)      Assist MGH to move Associate level nurses to the Bachelor level in order to meet their goal of moving from 20% BSN level staff to 80% BSN level staff in ten years.

b)      Help to launch an ongoing industry/education partnership for improved clinical training between MGH and the University of Maine at Augusta (the first cohort of students would be primarily apprentices in the ADN-BSN nurse residency at MGH.)

c)      Help to launch shared clinical instructor staff, relieving a bottleneck in clinical instruction facing Maine nursing schools.

d)     Provide specific on-the-job learning for nurse specialties for ADN nurses while they take related instruction toward Bachelor degree.

e)      Provide specific in-house training for nurse apprentices.

f)       Allow nurses to earn university college credit for their on-the-job learning hours.

g)      Establish a first RN-level apprenticeship program that can be presented to USDOL-OA for national recognition.

h)      Establish a first articulation agreement for college credit at the university level (Maine currently has an agreement with all Maine Community Colleges that allows apprentices to earn up to six college credits per year for the on-the-job learning component of apprentices who have matriculated into the Trades and Technology Occupations degree program.)


Maine’s Apprenticeship Program can provide tuition cost assistance once the grant closes, making the Nurse Residency Apprenticeship a sustainable outcome of the grant.


The above two initiatives are just a few of the new directions the Maine Apprenticeship Program is working toward and will be pleased to provide an update once these projects are successfully launched.


Ginny Carroll

Director Apprenticeship & Strategic Partnerships

55 SHS, Augusta, ME 04333-0055

(207) 623-7974

Submitted by John Griffin

ETA’s Office of Apprenticeship is developing a national directory of Pre-Apprenticeship programs to help facilitate and strengthen connections between Pre-Apprenticeship programs and Registered Apprenticeship program sponsors.  The pilot web-based directory will help a variety of workforce system customers and practitioners (i.e. job seekers, Registered Apprenticeship Sponsors, One-Stops and Community Based Organizations) identify the nearest Pre-Apprenticeship program (geographically by zip code or city/state). 


Pre-Apprenticeship programs with a direct connection to a Registered Apprenticeship sponsor organization are encouraged to visit our information gathering tool at


The initial launch of the directory is a beta test and is subject to change as appropriate.  Provision of information is voluntary and inclusion in the directory does not constitute an endorsement by USDOL.

Ed. Note: Cross posted from the Department of Labor blog and The White House blog.

Secretary Solis with leaders from apprenticeship programs along with
administration officials to commemorate 100 years of apprenticeship. June 6, 2011.
 (by Photo by Department of Labor)

This morning I had the honor of hosting an event on the National Mall to commemorate 100 Years of Registered Apprenticeship.

First established by Wisconsin state legislation in 1911, the United States Congress instituted federal registered apprenticeships in 1937 when it passed the Fitzgerald Act. The bill’s sponsor, Connecticut congressman William J. Fitzgerald, worked in a foundry as a young man. 

The Fitzgerald Act protects the safety and welfare of apprentices and brings together employers and labor for the formulation of apprenticeship programs to train workers in specialized skills while earning a living wage.

Initially, Registered Apprenticeship programs existed mainly in the manufacturing, construction and utilities industries.  After World War II, Registered Apprenticeship began to expand into training of health and safety workers, including firefighters, police, and emergency medical technicians.  New generations are engaged in this unique ‘earn while you learn’ model in emerging industries such as information technology and health care, as well as culinary arts and child care.

Today as I commemorated this historic program, I was joined by inspiring young apprentices, including the Labor Department’s YouthBuild andJob Corps students, who are getting the skills they need to re-build this country – and their lives.  They demonstrate the necessity for registered apprenticeships now more than ever as we strive to get Americans back to work by providing job-seekers with the skills to land good-paying jobs, while linking employers with highly trained talent.

Secretary Solis at a brick laying apprenticeship booth on the National Mall.
June 6, 2011. (by photo by the Department of Labor)

From the stage, Kevin Burton of the National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee moved me – and the gathered crowd — with the story of how apprenticeship brought her out of poverty and into the working class.

Ian Brady, a journeyman and United Association’s national apprentice of the year, shared with the YouthBuild and JobCorps participants present how he was able to earn a living while developing his trade through his apprenticeship.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: joint apprenticeships are one of this country’s best kept secrets.  But from the National Mall this morning, I was proud to let the secret out.

Hilda Solis is the Secretary of the Department of Labor