With an estimated 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 each day and approaching retirement, there is a growing need to find qualified individuals to fill jobs across many employment sectors.   One tool that is helping businesses fill these skilled-labor gaps are apprenticeship programs.  Last week was National Apprenticeship Week — a time that helps draw attention to these important state-managed programs which allow people to be paid while obtaining technical certificates and other credentials that lead to successful careers.

Apprentices work full time under the supervision of a skilled worker and commit to taking related classroom instruction at night or on weekends.   Apprenticeship positions can be offered by an employer, groups of employers or jointly by employers and unions.  In each case, the employer(s) or a union works in conjunction with the New York State Department of Labor to register the position with the apprenticeship program.  The apprenticeship opportunities are then listed by region in a special section of the Department of Labor’s site. In Central New York and the North Country there are currently opportunities available in construction, health care, carpentry, electrical engineering, and masonry.   

There are several advantages to obtaining an apprenticeship position.  One advantage is the job placement rate is high. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, nearly 9 out of 10 apprentices are employed after completing their apprenticeship.  Another benefit is the competitive salaries associated with skilled labor.  The average starting annual salary for a skilled laborer is $60,000.  In New York, apprenticeship opportunities have increased in part thanks to a $4.2 million grant the state received from the U.S. Department of Labor in 2017 and other recruitment efforts.  In December 2017, there were 16,717 apprentices and in August 2018, there were 18,334.   

Apprenticeship programs have long served as an excellent alternative for high school graduates who choose not to attend a four-year college.  Depending on their interest, an apprentice can learn skills relating to a variety of fields.  In fact, the additional funding recently provided by the U.S. Department of Labor is designed to help develop apprenticeship opportunities in emerging fields such as of advanced manufacturing, healthcare, and information technology, as well as other in-demand occupations.

Employers, local unions, business organizations, non-profit organizations or groups of employers may apply for an apprenticeship through the State Department of Labor. For each apprenticeship, a contract is established between the apprentice and the employer and registered with the Department of Labor.  Each apprenticeship has its own standard training outline, which details the on-the-job training and classroom instruction requirements.  Classes and training materials are typically paid for by the program.  The length of each apprenticeship varies anywhere from one to six years. Typically, those interested in joining an apprenticeship program have their high school diploma but some apprenticeships can start earlier as long as the applicant is 16 years old and meets other qualifications outlined by the sponsor.

Classroom-related instruction is fulfilled through a trade school, local college or through a BOCES program. At the successful completion of the apprenticeship program, the Department of Labor awards the apprentice with a “Certificate of Completion.” To learn more about apprenticeship programs and about local jobs and apprenticeship programs, please visit www.labor.ny.gov and for more on National Apprenticeship Week, visit www.apprenticeship.gov

Assemblyman Will Barclay can be reached by mail at 200 N. 2nd St., Fulton, New York 13069, by e-mail at barclaw@nyassembly.gov or by calling (315) 598-5185.

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