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Strengthening Apprenticeships and Skills-Based Education

Apprenticeships and earn-and-learn programs are energizing the workforce. In a hearing this morning, members of the Higher Education and Workforce Investment Subcommittee heard from witnesses about how apprenticeships are equipping Americans with skills they need to land the 7 million jobs available across the country.

“We’ve seen a surge of interest in apprenticeships in recent years but this workforce development tool has been around for centuries. Apprenticeship programs give countless Americans the knowledge and skills they need to excel in the millions of good-paying, in-demand jobs available nationwide. Nothing can prepare a student quite like on-the-job experience. Apprenticeships are a tried-and-true method of setting students up for success,” Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-PA), Republican Leader of the Higher Education and Workforce Investment Subcommittee, said in his opening statement.

Registered apprenticeships administered through the Department of Labor are a great way to strengthen the workforce, but employer-led apprenticeships are emerging as an increasingly powerful force in equipping American workers. Employer-led apprenticeship programs account for more than 80 percent of all apprenticeship programs nationwide. Employers know what skills their employees need to excel in the workplace, and Congress should encourage business and community leaders to continue crafting programs to help their employees succeed.

Mr. Mark Hays, the Vice Chancellor for Workforce and Economic Development for the Dallas County Community College District (DCCCD), explained how the Dallas network of community colleges expanded its offerings to include skills-based education for apprentices.

“Dallas is experiencing a conundrum. While there are thousands of middle class jobs going unfilled, the poverty rate is the third highest in the nation,” Hays said.

He continued, “Many of the apprentices we work with are not enrolled in our colleges as students. This effort is not about enrolling more students in our colleges. We hope that at some point they do enroll, but that’s not the primary motivation here. We want members of our community to obtain the skills necessary to support their families and we want companies to have a stable workforce. If those apprenticeships involve college credit, great! If not, then that’s ok too. The key is obtaining the necessary skills to provide a good living and creating a dynamic, skilled workforce that helps our communities grow and thrive.”

All education is career education, and Committee on Education and Labor Republicans want to change the misconception that a baccalaureate degree is the only pathway to a successful life. Apprenticeships and earn-and-learn programs are a key way we can close the national skills gap, and Committee Republicans will keep working to strengthen skills-based education and empower a new generation of apprentices in the workforce.
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