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Column: Vt. Builds Apprenticeships for 21st Century



To the Valley News
Friday, December 07, 2018

In Vermont, and across the country, registered apprenticeship programs are quickly gaining popularity.

For employers, the registered apprenticeship model provides the opportunity to create customized training programs that fit their business and growth needs, while lowering recruitment costs and employee turnover. Job seekers appreciate this model because they are “earning while they learn” — receiving a paycheck from day one, receiving one-on-one mentoring, enjoying progressive pay raises and gaining a nationally recognized credential at the completion of their program.

In today’s tight labor market, it’s no wonder this centuries-old job training program is making a comeback.

A registered apprenticeship is a state-approved, federally recognized training program in which participants learn the technical and academic components of their occupation while working for a business sponsor. There are thousands of registered apprenticeships across the country — and more than 300 active registered apprenticeship programs right here in Vermont. Opportunities range from the most familiar, such as plumbing and electrical apprenticeships, to ones that are less commonly known, such as police officer, medical assistant, insurance policy adviser and pharmacy technician apprenticeships, among many others.

The Vermont Department of Labor works with employers to create a structured, on-the-job training program. The department can facilitate partnerships with a related instruction provider, such as Vermont Technical College, the Community College of Vermont, Vermont HITEC or a local career and technical education center, and will help establish a reward system for participant skill gains.

The department will register, support and monitor the progress of registered apprentices through the program to ensure that participants who complete the apprenticeship are awarded a national occupational credential. This credential is a guarantee to employers that the individual has the skills and experience to do the job.

While most apprentices remain employed with their sponsor employer at the completion of the program, the reward of a nationally recognized certificate provides a boost to initial recruitment and supports retention through the program.

In July, apprenticeships and the on-the-job training model received national attention when President Donald Trump announced the formation of the National Council for the American Worker. The Scott administration and the Vermont Department of Labor, however, were one step ahead with the formation of an Apprenticeship Division team and the expansion of the Department of Labor’s statewide registered apprenticeship strategy. This team within the department is tasked with creating more registered apprenticeship opportunities and ensuring that our workforce has the correct training and skills to keep up with Vermont’s changing economy.

In Vermont we hear too often that businesses cannot find workers with the skills necessary to fill vacant positions. In an effort to expand registered apprenticeship opportunities, and to help recruit more individuals into our labor force, the Vermont Department of Labor is looking to work with interested employers to develop new programs that will fit your exact business and skills needs. If this sounds like a possible fit for you, call our Apprenticeship Division at 888-807-7072 or email Labor.VTJobs@vermont.gov to speak with one of our specialists.

Lindsay Hill Kurrle is the commissioner of the Vermont Department of Labor.