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Submitted by Kentucky Deputy Commissioner of Labor Mike Donta

Pilot partnership

Dean Monarch deals with tools and machines; technical devices that can make precise cuts and perfect holes in most types of metal. He fastens a small piece of metal to a shiny machine and begins working on it with the skill of a surgeon, pausing for a moment to pick up a small brush and flick away fragments of steel.           

“Never use your hands,” he says. “The brush is the safe way to do it.”  

Monarch is an instructor at the Breckinridge County Area Technology Center, where he helps students learn the skills they can apply to a promising career.  


The students are in the TRACK program, which stands for Tech Ready Apprentices for Careers in Kentucky. The program is a pilot partnership between the Office of Career and Technical Education and the Kentucky Labor Cabinet. The goal is to provide pre-apprenticeship opportunities to secondary students.  

Rewarding careers  

This fall, thirteen high school technology centers in Kentucky are utilizing the program. Employers choose from the manufacturing courses at the schools to design the programs to fit what they need from their potential employees.  

After successful completion, the students will be awarded an industry certification by the employer through the Kentucky Labor Cabinet and all on-the-job hours worked will be counted toward an apprenticeship. The certification will also count toward the local school district’s college and career ready accountability index. There are no costs involved except to the employer for wages paid to the student/employee.            

“One of the biggest things students don’t realize is the financial impact that going through an industrial program can have,” says Monarch. “Our students can start out making between $13 and $14 an hour, and within four years be making $25-$28 an hour. That’s almost $60,000 a year.”  

Mike Donta, Deputy Commissioner with the Kentucky Labor Cabinet, says there are over 1,200 apprenticeable occupations recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor. High school students enrolled in the TRACK program can prepare themselves for one of those many careers in advanced manufacturing and avoid the cost of student loans.            

“Often apprenticeships are viewed as an alternative to college, but really in today’s environment, most programs require classroom instruction,” says Donta. “The advantage is that students enrolled in apprenticeship programs are not accumulating any student debt, and instead they’re receiving a paycheck while they learn.”  

A “win-win” 

Kenny Whitworth, president of Whitworth Tool, says that the TRACK program helps students and employers, because it allows companies to work with the training centers to provide the specific skills and training needed. The companies know they will be able to hire qualified workers, and the students benefit from high-paying and rewarding jobs.           

“For schools to work with industry, it’s a win-win,” says Whitworth, “both for the student and the employer.  We’ve found that students who come out of the program have strong skills, a core work ethic, and they are always on the move and really in love with the trade,” says Kim Brewer, director of human resources for Atlas Machine and Supply, a participant in the partnership. “They want to do well and they know this is where they want to be.  There has been an exodus, it seems, of people wanting to get into skilled trades,” says Dennis Hannah, vice president and general manager of Atlas Machine and Supply. “So the jobs are out there. And with the pre-apprenticeship in TRACK, we can focus on exactly what students need and they will advance a lot faster than they would have without this program.”  

Bringing education and industry together

At the Breckinridge County Area Technology Center, Mr. Monarch sees how the program will help lead students to successful careers. 

“The pre-apprenticeship program not only gets students involved, but gets industry engaged in helping our educational process,” he says. “The program has been very beneficial in that it connects students with our industries and prepares them for the world of work -- all while providing industry with a quality employee.” 

Tom Thompson, Breckinridge County ATC principal, says the TRACK program will help the center meet its goals under Kentucky’s College and Career Readiness Delivery Plan.  The TRACK program is just another step in that college and career readiness model, and I think we have got it right,” he says. 

This program will be available to all high school technology centers for fall 2014. Manufacturing companies can get the process started by registering for an apprenticeship program. Contact Mike Donta at the Kentucky Labor Cabinet at Mike.Donta@ky.gov or call 502-564-1520 for more information. 

To find out how to get involved with a local or state technology center, contact Mary Taylor at 502-564-4286 or via email at Mary.Taylor@education.ky.gov. An informational website can be found by clicking on the TRACK logo at www.kentuckyapprenticeship.com.            

The Advisory Committee on Apprenticeship (ACA) and the Office of Apprenticeship have recently issued a paper titled, Recommendations to Encourage Registered Apprenticeship – Community-Based Organization Partnerships, focusing on the importance of increasing connections among the Registered Apprenticeship system and Community-Based organizations (CBOs).  The “white paper” aims to help address the need of American industry for a highly skilled workforce, and offer recommendations for providing often under-represented populations a viable pathway to the middle class.  CBOs offer training to prepare individuals that lack adequate skills for apprenticeships as well as support them during their apprenticeships. CBOs often also offer a range of classes and services including math and language skills, job readiness skills, boot camps, job shadowing, peer groups, and providing childcare, transportation, uniforms and tools.

In an effort to better support these partnerships, the Secretary of Labor asked the ACA to explore issues and challenges related to RA & CBO engagement.  The ACA is composed of representatives from industry, labor, and the public.  The paper presents findings on the common successes and challenges in RA/CBO partnerships, four best practices case studies, and recommendations to DOL on how to better foster RA/CBO partnerships.  

This white paper is a great foundation for anyone addressing challenges related to increasing access to Apprenticeship for under-represented populations and we encourage everyone to read it and use it as a resource in their effort to help advance the use of Registered Apprenticeship to prepare ALL populations with 21st century skills.

Download the FULL REPORT HERE

Armed with only a general equivalency diploma and a desire to work, 21-year-old Marvin McCants had few options for gainful employment in post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans.

Even before the storm washed away much of his eastern New Orleans community, McCants had worked “hit and miss” jobs in the fast food business and as a “hopper” on a garbage truck.

“It was nothing real stable where I could make a decent living,” he said.

Luckily, McCants heard about the new Gulf Coast Construction Careers Center that was established by the AFL-CIO’s Building and Construction Trades Department in eastern New Orleans shortly after the hurricane.

He signed up for the four-week introductory training program in 2009, and has been gainfully employed for the past four years as an apprentice. Today, he is a mechanic in the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers Local 53. McCants earns more than $22 per hour, has health benefits and a pension.

“It makes me feel good that I am able to support my son (Marvin Jr., five months) without any worries about where I am going to get money to buy diapers or baby food,” he said. “I am happy that I can raise my son the way I want to raise him and give him opportunities.”

When McCants initially joined the training program, he thought he would become an electrician.  Then Andy O’Brien, business agent and administrator for the apprenticeship program of the insulator’s Local 53 made a presentation to his class, and McCants knew that was the trade for him.

Following the four-week introductory training, McCants interviewed with O’Brien and became an apprentice, working for Eagle Insulations, LLC of New Orleans.

“I worked for Eagle in the day and went to school one night a week from 6-10,” McCants said. “I have been steadily employed the past four years and have had a pay increase every year.”

Without the help of G4C (the nickname locals gave the now-defunct training program), McCants said he has no idea where he would be today. “I would just be looking for work, like before, I guess. Who knows? I’m glad I got introduced to G4C and it introduced me to the different trades.”

McCants’ success as an “inner city kid” who made good is admirable, O’Brien said, particularly considering “the disarray our community was in after Katrina.”

“God only knows what they were making prior to Katrina,” O’Brien added. Non-union workers in the same field earn anywhere from $10 per hour to $22 an hour, O’Brien said, but with no benefits. “Even though they are making one thing one day, they could go in to work and get their wages cut,” O’Brien said. “In the union, we don’t go backwards. Plus, we have retirement and health benefits.”

Currently, McCants is working on a complete renovation and addition to Monroe Hall on the campus of Loyola University in New Orleans, where Eagle is a subcontractor to Gallo Mechanical, LLC of Metairie, La.

Stephen LeBlanc, Eagle’s superintendent/foreman on the job, describes McCants as one of his better employees. “He’s here every day. He’s on time. He does what he’s asked,” LeBlanc said. “That’s basically all you can ask.”

McCants is also well trained, LeBlanc added. “He is definitely one that I wouldn’t be afraid of putting on anything we do. Marvin is one of the better ones in regards to both training and attitude.”

Now that McCants has completed his apprenticeship and is a mechanic, he has the ability to “be a foreman, to run his own jobs,” LeBlanc said.

That is McCants’ ambition, one that he now has the training to realize.

“I picked insulation, and it worked out for me,” said McCants, who has been a part of many exciting jobs throughout the past four years. When he worked on installing new eateries at the Louis Armstrong International Airport, McCants and his co-workers got to ride a truck on the runway to get to the work entrance. “Another time, I was on the roof of a building where I could see the New Orleans skyline and look at the roof of the Superdome,” McCants said. “I get to see a lot of places I otherwise wouldn’t go, and I take pride in saying I had a hand in building things.”


Article Courtesy of Construction Gumbo

“Registered Apprenticeship has tremendous opportunity to help millions of individuals” begins a quote from a ground-breaking report from the Secretary of Labor’s Advisory Committee on Apprenticeship entitled “21st Century Registered Apprenticeship: A Shared Vision for Increasing Opportunity, Innovation, and Competitiveness for American Workers and Employers.”   The report comes as an outgrowth of a challenge made by the Secretary of Labor to the Advisory Committee on Apprenticeship (ACA) during the Summer 2012 celebration of the 75th Anniversary of the signing of the National Apprenticeship Act.  The ACA took the Secretary’s challenge to heart and over several months developed a collaborative 21st century "vision" to expand the use of Registered Apprenticeship and seize the opportunity to capitalize on the growing interest in Registered Apprenticeship as a solution to the nation’s workforce, economic, and education challenges.  The result is a set of innovative solutions and recommendations to expand Registered Apprenticeship through a combination of proposed policies, partnerships, and leveraging of the national system which is now composed of approximately 250,000 employers, joint labor-management organizations, and educational partners.  

Read the Full Report Here

Read the 2-Page Vision Overview Here

The report is particularly timely, as the United States emerges from the “Great Recession” and the economy continues to face challenges.  Be it worker skill shortages, gaps in educational attainment, credentialing or preparing for the continued aging of our workforce, all of these issues create potential challenges in keeping America competitive.  Regularly, those looking to gain skills seek higher education pathways as the sole opportunity to reach the middle class and to gain the skills needed in today’s increasingly knowledge-based economy.  However, there is a renewed national interest in work-based learning strategies due to a number of factors, including growing frustration with the cost of higher education, the growing skills gap in critical industries and key occupations that do not require a traditional four year degree.  The ACA “Vision” report explains that for many new and emerging industries, worker and skill shortages could be addressed through an expanded and enhanced 21st century National Registered Apprenticeship system. 

We are now excited to issue the committee’s report complete with recommendations and highlights of the system’s innovators and trailblazers, programs recognized for their embodiment of the ACA’s 21st vision for Registered Apprenticeship, and encourage you to read and help disseminate the Executive Summary and Full Report. Fulfilling the 21st Century Registered Apprenticeship vision will require transformational change in policy, organization, and practice and will require continued leadership and engagement from key partners in the areas of workforce, economic development, and education.  

We thank each of our ACA members for all the hard work, time commitments, leadership and expertise they have provided to make this shared vision a collaborative effort that takes into consideration the needs and challenges facing all of America’s employers, businesses, industries and stakeholders.  We expect this effort to help shape the future direction of the Registered Apprenticeship system.  If actions are implemented and incentivized properly, Registered Apprenticeship could hold the key to assisting millions of employers and workers. 

Also be sure to look for a future Webinar on the report.  Thank you again to our ACA members for their dedication to expanding the use of Registered Apprenticeship to help keep America competitive in the 21st Century.

A recent article on apprenticeship published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in the Occupational Outlook Quarterly (OOQ) highlights the advantages of Registered Apprenticeship, details current popular apprenticeable occupations, and provides tips for finding apprenticeships in your area.  The “Apprenticeship: Earn While you Learnarticle is complete with testimonials given by apprentices in varying occupations and tips for new or potential apprentices on how to be successful in their new career path.  It also provides data on hourly wages for apprentices in occupations that are growing.  This is a great resource to learn more about how an apprenticeship works, what apprenticeships are “trending” right now, and find useful resources and links on apprenticeship opportunities.  It’s also a great “leave behind’ for an Apprenticeship practitioner when meeting with partners, stakeholders or potential employer-sponsors or apprentices.  Access the Full Article Here on the Community of Practice or visit http://www.bls.gov/opub/ooq/.