Registered apprenticeships are having a moment. The Biden administration wants there to be more.
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There has been — and continues to be — a real hunger for skilled workers in this economy. Today, the Biden administration released a playbook suggesting investments states and municipalities can make in training those workers. There’s about $11 billion in American Rescue Plan funds to make it happen. One recommendation is to invest in registered apprenticeships. They’ve been around since the 1930s, but are having, as they say, a moment.
33-year-old Amber Riskey, an operating engineer apprentice, is learning to use heavy equipment while paving a road in the Milwaukee area.
“I’m physical, I’m moving all day, there’s constant challenge through the day,” she said. “This is what I was meant to do.”
And she likes the money — about $30 an hour now, and that will increase as she moves through the apprenticeship.
But it’s more than just driving a paver. She learns other skills in the classroom.
“Fixing small equipment or small engines, and, you know, hoisting and rigging — they want you to be well rounded,” she said. “So if you’re out of work, they can put you in a different field.”
Riskey is one of more than 850,000 registered apprentices nationwide, all in programs that meet standards set by the Department of Labor. That’s nearly double the number from a decade ago.
The demand from employers for these workers is incredible.
“With all the solar work, data centers, commercial buildings being built, there’s just literally not enough electricians to do it, so we stay very busy,” said Mike Basham, VP of education and workforce development for IEC Chesapeake, an electrician apprenticeship in Maryland.
Apprenticeships help keep the wheels of the economy moving, said Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo.
“They help us deal with shortages in things like trucking that are critical to making sure that we can move goods around the country,” he said.
Adeyemo said they also help move workers off the sidelines and into the labor force.
In the Milwaukee area, Amber Riskey is actually on her second registered apprenticeship. Her first was as a laborer.
She likes proving wrong the people who told her women can’t work in road construction.
“It feels good,” she said. “It feels really good.”
And she said, she’s interested in mentoring future apprentices.
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