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Pickens County, in upstate South Carolina, is committed to academic excellence.  In Pickens County students are being given access to the tools required to succeed in today’s competitive market place. The motto in Pickens County is “Developing a Workforce for You.” And Pickens County takes the motto to heart.  Students are started on a path to success from kindergarten, through secondary school, and continuing through graduation from a technical college. Their education system focuses on critical thinking and developing the technical ability needed to be proficient with both their mind and hands. This has led to students of all grade levels excelling in the fields of robotics, manufacturing and mechatronics.  The local economic development community has recognized the skill level of these students and the importance of integrating this young talent to help meet the needs of local businesses.  United Tool and Mold, Inc. was one of the first companies to start a “School to Work” Registered Apprenticeship program with Pickens County. This effort has given these bright students a viable career path and a way to hone their skills through real life experience and application.  In return the students provide local employers a skilled workforce that is technically proficient and able to help companies establish a workforce prepared for success now and in the future. Pickens County South Carolina is a great example of a Registered apprenticeship School to Work program in action, and how a dedicated school system and supportive employer partners can work together to create a workforce prepared for the future.  See the video below developed by Alliance Pickens for more on developing the “Scholar Technician.”  Alliance Pickens is a public/private economic development organization whose primary mission is to attract, retain and increase the number of jobs and increase the tax base in Pickens County.   

Blog submitted by Randy Copeland

The Secretary of Labor’s Advisory Committee on Apprenticeship (ACA) recently met over 2 days (June 5 & 6) to discuss strategies to assist transitioning veterans prepare for successful careers through Registered Apprenticeship.  Joining ACA members, leadership from the U.S. Department s of Defense, Veterans Affairs and Labor, the Maryland Dept. of Labor, apprenticeship sponsors and others involved in assisting veterans held discussions ranging from finding ways to increase access for veterans to enter Registered Apprenticeship programs; providing credit for training and skills veterans have developed during their service; to ways the Federal government, employers and industry can partner to increase services and opportunities for our returning service members.

The meeting kicked off at the Pentagon, the Department of Defense headquarters, located in Arlington, VA., with remarks by the Director of Training Readiness and Strategy for the Department of Defense Frank DiGiovanni; Deputy Assistant Secretary for Veterans‘ Employment and Training Service with the Department of Labor John Moran; and Maryland Secretary of Labor, Licensing and Regulations Leonard Howie.  The message was pretty our service men and women return from duty; how do we best provide opportunities through Registered Apprenticeship that can lead to long-term, well-paying careers.  Over the next day and a half, with time split between the Pentagon and the Labor department, the ACA and other apprenticeship and veterans advocates and stakeholders rolled up their sleeves and identified areas for increasing the opportunities veterans have to access training and career-related assistance.

The event was also highlighted by testimony given by U.S. Air Force Major and White House Fellow at the U.S. Department of Labor Ariel Batungbacal.  Major Batungbacal spoke on strategies to help recruit women into the skilled trades, including targeted outreach campaigns.  She also spoke of her own experiences in the military and how the leadership women show in their military duties can be transferred to opportunities in the private sector as they transition to civilian employment.  Stay tuned for a video highlighting Major Batungbacal’s remarks in the coming days.

The meeting concluded with the development of initial “areas of focus” for moving forward to recruit and offer opportunities to transitioning veterans through Registered Apprenticeship.  The “areas of focus” included, but are not limited to the following:

  • Use of paid advertisements, Public Service Announcements (PSA’s), and technology (web-based) to recruit and make veterans aware of Registered Apprenticeship opportunities.
  • Development of a web-based platform or tool to help identify where local and national Registered Apprenticeship opportunities for veterans exist.
  •  Establishment of stronger relationships with military “transition” personnel, including Base Commanders, to create earlier access to Veterans prior to the end of their service to make them aware of the civilian opportunities that may be available to them.   
  •  Incorporation of national training credentials and competency-based training models into the training service members receive while on active-duty.
  •  Expansion of existing apprenticeship models currently used in the Military [e.g. U.S. Military Apprenticeship Program (USMAP), used primarily by the United States Navy]

As discussions continue and strategies around the “areas of focus” mentioned above are further explored, we will continue to update progress and continue our joint efforts to assist returning veterans.  The ACA’s Ad Hoc workgroup on Veterans anticipates finalizing a set of recommendations and action items for consideration at the next ACA meeting (TBD).

Finally, we wish to thank all of our partners and ACA members that worked so hard to make this meeting such a success.  Specifically, we wish to thank our valued partners at the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs as well as our colleagues in the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Veterans and Employment and Training Services (VETS).  We also very much appreciate the work of the ACA’s Ad Hoc workgroup that led the development and structure of this meeting.  Lastly, a reminder to look for more on featured speaker Ariel Batungbacal’s remarks via a video interview conducted here at the U.S. Department of Labor.

For more on the meeting, including photos, be sure to read the DOL Newsletter item from the June 6 edition, under Around DOL - Apprenticeship Committee Focuses on Veterans. View Here

Picking back up on Our Trailblazer and Innovator Spotlight series this week, we take a look at the Prince Georges County (MD) Fire & Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department Registered Apprenticeship program.  The apprenticeship is a partnership developed between the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (DLLR) Apprenticeship Division, the Prince Georges County Fire / EMS Training Academy, the Prince Georges County Fire & EMS Department and the Prince George's County Professional Fire Fighters & Paramedics Association, Local 1619 to provide comprehensive, quality training and education programs for all fire, rescue, and emergency medical services personnel.   This effort is helping make the Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Training Academy become a regional leader in providing premier fire, rescue, and emergency medical services training and education through the use of consistent quality training strategies within a structured environment, with training provided by qualified instructors. 

The Maryland DLLR, Prince Georges County Fire & EMS Department, and IAFF Local 1619 worked together to develop the apprenticeship program and make it available to all sworn members of the Prince George's County Fire & EMS Department.  This Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (JATC) Program is a 36 month apprenticeship that requires the individual to demonstrate skills proficiency in several job performance requirements, as listed in National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) 1001 Fire Fighter I & II and sections of NFPA 1002 Fire Apparatus Driver Operator and essential job functions listed in the Department of Transportation Regulations for Emergency Medical Technicians.

The job of a fire fighter requires high levels of endurance and strength.  To be accepted into the apprenticeship program, a Service member will be required to take a written aptitude test, and complete the Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT), which consists of eight physical tasks that simulate actual job duties on the fire ground.  This test is physically demanding and requires that Service members be physically fit to be successful.  It is a pass or fail test consisting of: 1) a 60 step stair climb while wearing a 75 lb. vest; 2) hose drag; 3) equipment carry; 4) ladder raise & extension; 5) forcible entry; 6) search; 7) dummy drag; 8) ceiling breach and pull.   

Candidates receive eight weeks of test preparation or practice to help pass the CPAT. Successful candidates are required to attend and pass a 20 week Career Recruit School. This program will provide the basic skills for an individual to become certified as a Fire Fighting and Emergency Medical Technician.  Once the individual has successfully completed the Career Recruit School, they are enrolled into the 36 month apprenticeship program, where each individual must show a mastery of the basic skills they learned during Career Recruit School.  The apprenticeship program combines class-room studies with on-the-job supervised training.

The Prince Georges County Fire & EMS Department Registered Apprenticeship program was recently   identified as a Trailblazer and Innovator program, which recognized innovative training models that embody the 21st century vision for apprenticeship, during the U.S. Department of Labor’s “OutEducate OutBuild OutInnovate Education and Action Summit” in commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of the signing of the National Apprenticeship Act.  Assistant Chief Kenneth Fusco and Curriculum Specialist Craig Smith attended the event and were presented with a Certificate of Recognition presented by Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis, and Administrator of Apprenticeship John V. Ladd.

“Using Apprenticeship to train our Firefighters and EMS personnel has allowed us to ensure that the training received is consistent and is able to meet the high standards we require for our emergency responders,” said Craig Smith.

For more on the program, be sure to download and share the Prince Georges County Fire and EMS Department Apprenticeship Trailblazer and innovator Fact Sheet.  Also, for more on the Prince Georges County Fire & EMS Training Academy, please visit their Web Site

On May 3rd, the Washington Post published an Op-Ed piece highlighting the important role Registered Apprenticeship could play in helping the U.S. address the growing skills gap many employers face.  The article was jointly written by former chief White House domestic policy adviser to President Jimmy Carter and Undersecretary of Commerce for International Trade Stuart E. Eizenstat, and American University economics professor and Urban Institute fellow Robert I Lerman.  According to Lerman and Eizenstat, a survey of employers (released last year) estimates that nearly 600,000 jobs go unfilled each year because of a lack of skilled labor.  A 21st Century Registered Apprenticeship system, similar to systems used in Germany and Switzerland, could have a huge impact in addressing the skills gap many employers find when looking for qualified employees.  Read the article below, and feel free to give your thoughts in the comments section.  Is Apprenticeship under-used in the U.S.? How can we work to encourage more investment in Apprenticeship?

Washington Post Op-Ed: Apprenticeships could help U.S. workers gain a competitive edge

In 2007, Pipe Fitters Local Union 597, of the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States, Canada and Australia (UA) launched a hybrid welding program to support the need for skilled workers in this occupation. The UA has a long history using apprenticeship’s “earn while you learn” model, establishing the first nationally registered joint apprenticeship program in the United States, dating back to 1936.   

The 16-week hybrid welding program offers apprentices up to 700 hours of welding training, 85% of which is “hands on.” The training includes a low instructor to student ratio, which gives apprentices additional mentor-based instruction time, adding to the program’s great success. Since its existence, over 300 students have graduated from the program, and all are now gainfully employed. Once a hybrid student or a graduate apprentice obtains four welding certifications, they have the option to continue their training through journeyman level courses.

Pipe Fitters Local Union 597 apprenticeship program began in 1921.  Today, apprentices take advantage of a 198,000 square-foot state-of-the-art training facility, located in Mokena, Illinois.  The facility includes 116 welding booths, 2 computer rooms with 20-student stations each, two coupon cutting machines (flame cuts and machine bevels), an overhead crane, a lecture hall complete with wireless (wan) laptops, auditorium seating for up to 250, and a complete HVAC instructional/practical area.  The facility provides training for 18 counties in Illinois and northwest Indiana.

An apprentice who completes the Pipe Fitters program is able to attain an Associate’s degree after taking three online courses offered by the Pipe Fitters International Organization, the UA.

Pipe Fitters Local 597 was recognized as a Trailblazer and Innovator program, which highlighted innovative training models that embody the 21st century vision for apprenticeship, during the Department of Labor’s OutEducate OutBuild OutInnovate Education and Action Summit” in commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of the signing of the National Apprenticeship Act.  Apprentice Coordinator Kevin Lakomiak represented the program during the August 1, 2012 event, in Washington, D.C.  Mr. Lakomiak was presented with a Certificate of Recognition by then Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis and Administrator of Apprenticeship John V. Ladd.

Pipe Fitters Local 597 Business Manager James Buchannan spoke on the importance of this recognition.
He stated that “Pipe Fitters Local 597 has a long history of using Apprenticeship to build a workforce of the best Pipe Fitters, Welders and HVAC Service Technicians in the country.  The use of our hybrid welding program gives our students the opportunity to gain skills and advance into our rigorous 5-year Apprenticeship program.  This recognition helps confirm our belief that the men and women that enter our program receive the best training available anywhere in the world.    

For more on Local Union 597, please visit the Chicago Pipe Fitters Local Union 597 Training Center Website.  For more on Local Union 597 Registered Apprenticeship opportunities, CLICK HERE.