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Everybody Has to Start Somewhere

They say only superheroes don’t need training to be good at their jobs. Even then, some stumble along the way to success—Tony Stark in his Ironman suit for the first time, for example. Maybe what he needed was a different approach to learning his job than jumping right in.

Apprenticeships have helped build America from its early beginnings to the present day. Among the early apprentices who went on to national distinction were George Washington (surveyor), Benjamin Franklin (printer) and Paul Revere (Silversmith). Thousands of others – carpenters, masons, shipwrights – did their part in developing and supporting the economy of our young nation and making the United States what it is today.

In 1937, the NAA (National Apprenticeship Act), also known as the Fitzgerald Act, was signed into law establishing the RAP (Registered Apprenticeship Program). The NAA permitted the U.S. DOL (Dept. of Labor) to issue regulations protecting the health, safety, and general welfare of apprentices as well as preventing racial, ethnic, religious, age, and gender discrimination in apprenticeship programs.

Under NAA legislation, apprenticeship programs primarily supported workers in the skilled trades. In 2022, apprenticeship programs are still thriving and include a variety of industries and occupations ranging from skilled trades and construction to technology, healthcare, energy, and advanced manufacturing. Apprenticeship is a workforce solution that is evolving to meet the needs of employers and to create skilled workforces that meet the demands of the changing American labor market.

The U.S. DOL recently announced a grant program to strengthen, modernize, expand, and diversify its RAP to enable more workers to earn while they learn and find reliable pathways to the middle class. The Department’s “Apprenticeship Building America” program will make $113 million in grant funding available, including up to $50 million to support equity partnerships and pre-apprenticeship activities to increase enrollment.

The grants will further the Department’s goals and priorities for a strong and equitable post-pandemic economic recovery by connecting Americans to good quality jobs in priority industry sectors, including critical supply chain industries and among populations disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

Using a coordinated national investment strategy, the Apprenticeship Building America grant program will strengthen and modernize the RAP system, increase equity and accessibility in program delivery to apprentices, bring the Registered Apprenticeship model to more industries, and improve RAP completion rates for under-represented populations and underserved communities.

Apprenticeship Building America program grant recipients will work with various partners to support and develop the Registered Apprenticeship ecosystem. These partnerships will include:

There are five core building blocks involved in creating and operating a Registered Apprenticeship Program. Depending on where you are in the program creation process, you may choose to start at a different building block. For example, if you’re new to apprenticeship you may start to first explore how apprenticeship is used across industry and geography. If you’re already familiar with apprenticeship, you can begin to build, partner, and register your program.

As an example of ways to get people involved, there is the Helmets to Hardhats initiative. The program is designed to help military service members to successfully transition back into civilian life by offering them the means to secure a quality career in the construction industry. Most career opportunities offered by the program are connected to federally approved apprenticeship training programs. Such training is provided by the trade organizations themselves at no cost to the veteran.

No prior experience is needed; in fact, most successful placements start with virtually no experience in their chosen field. All participating trade organizations conduct three to five year earn-while-you-learn apprenticeship training programs that teach service members everything they need to know to become a construction industry professional with a specialization in a particular craft.

Because these apprenticeship programs are regulated and approved at both federal and state levels, veterans can utilize their G.I. Bill benefits to supplement their income while they are learning valuable skills and on the job training. In 2007, Helmets to Hardhats supplemented its existing program with a disabled American veteran program known as the “Wounded Warrior” program, which serves to connect disabled veterans with employment opportunities in the construction industry and the careers that support construction.

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