The tech industry is behind many of the innovations that rapidly transform cities into smart cities, drastically improve diagnostic capabilities of doctors, and powerfully combat climate issues while making us more environmentally friendly. But to truly realize the societal and economic benefits these emerging technologies can offer, we must have a skilled workforce that enables the United States to continue to be a cradle of innovation and compete in the global marketplace. That is why apprenticeships and workforce retraining programs are essential to our country’s economic future.
This week marks Apprenticeship Week, which underscores just how important these programs are to our society and economy, and provides the perfect opportunity to highlight the vast benefits of a skilled workforce that meets the demand of a wide-range of employers.
Whether it is a traditional four-year college degree at a university or a course at the local community college, an apprenticeship program can enable students to acquire the skills they need to become successful workers. Apprenticeships offer workers an education, invaluable experience, and many practical skills that can be learned from quality professionals.
There is concrete action Congress and the administration can take to grow apprenticeship programs in the United States. To that end, ITI joined numerous leading tech industry groups in sending a letter to leadership in both the House and the Senate urging them to pass the Championing Apprenticeships for New Careers and Employees in Technology (CHANCE in Tech) Act, which would allow industry intermediaries to receive federal funding in order to develop effective apprenticeship programs within the booming tech sector.
After completing their apprenticeship, students will be better prepared to fill the roughly 3.3 million open science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) jobs across the country and across all industries – from manufacturing to energy to farming. The situation is even more dire for employers in rural states who confront a much larger STEM shortage than the rest of the country. Apprenticeships are a vital ingredient in the recipe to fill these jobs. Additionally, these programs generate substantial economic value for companies and workers alike. According to the Department of Labor, for every dollar spent on apprenticeships, employers get approximately $1.50 in return on investment, and workers who finish apprenticeship programs earn $300,000 more over a career than their peers who do not.
As we celebrate Apprenticeship Week, we must remember to continue to build and invest in a high-skilled workforce designed to compete in a global economy. There is no reason the United States should not be home to the engineer who will design the newest internet platform, develop the latest life-saving artificial intelligence technology, or create the next innovation that will further transform our lives.