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Revive & Thrive: NC Apprenticeships Moving Forward
The 2022 ApprenticeshipNC Annual Conference just wrapped up. What did we learn? The theme of Revive & Thrive was very appropriate. While the pandemic presented employers, schools, and students with some challenges, here in North Carolina we are well on the road to recovery and anticipate apprenticeships will play a big role.
The conference was well attended by employers, community colleges, consortium members, and apprenticeship supporters. Several students shared their experiences, and representatives from other states and countries provided insight into challenges and best practices from their perspectives.
The Future of Apprenticeship Looks Bright
While filling open positions is a global challenge, it is clear apprenticeship is a strong option to help fill these jobs and close the skills gap. We will need to work together and educate the public about the value of today’s apprenticeships.
Some of the key takeaways from this year’s conference:
- Education about apprenticeship is critical. Business owners and managers, teachers, students, parents, and influencers need to understand the value of apprenticeship and consider it a viable “first choice” for their student. Education for parents and students needs to start early – in middle school at the latest. Students can jumpstart their careers and have their training, certifications, and (often) degrees paid for by their employer.
- Parents and guardians are heavy influencers. At school, influencers can vary; they might include principals, career counselors, or even teachers who see apprenticeship as a great opportunity for a particular student. Businesses need to get in front of these groups – invite people to open houses, attend career events, and engage audiences.
- Perception matters. Today’s apprenticeship opportunities are not the same as those offered even twenty years ago. From clean, high-tech manufacturing facilities, to banking and finance, to nursing careers, there are hundreds of apprenticeable pathways open to students, and new apprenticeship programs are being added as technology changes. It will be increasingly important to show a pathway to leadership to make students and their influencers aware that this is a career and not just a job.
- Students must see it to be it. Apprentices need to be the ones to tell their stories to others. Diversity matters: If I don’t see myself and hear from others like me pursuing a career path, I probably will not even consider that it is something I could do. Mentors will be critical to retain the students pursuing non-traditional paths.
- Apprenticeships are a great option for many students, but it is becoming increasingly important to include older workers looking for new career opportunities and retraining.
- Retention is key. Getting students to sign up is one thing; however, there is still a lot of discrimination and harassment in the workplace. This is especially true for women pursuing traditionally male careers. They have to be tough and have mentors to support them. Employers need to have a zero-tolerance policy and enforce it.
- Consider how the status quo might change to better support apprenticeship. High schools are still “graded” on the percentage of kids who go to college (though not how many graduate from college); and current insurance laws often prevent pre-apprentices from doing hands-on work until they turn 18. Look at other practices that are pushing back against apprenticeship and call them out.
If you attended the 2022 conference, we hope you found value in the sessions, shared stories, and networking opportunities. If you missed it, make sure you plan to attend in 2023. You won’t be sorry you did.