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National Apprenticeship Week 2021

By: Erica Simon   |   November 2021

Learn about apprenticeships and the work WE CAN TX is doing to help Texas students meet talent and workforce demands of businesses while earning high-demand credentials.

National Apprenticeship Week (#NAW2021) is an annual effort that brings together educators, businesses, workforce boards, and the community to highlight apprenticeship programs across the country. The beauty of apprenticeships is that they are executed through a simple formula:

Paid on-the-job learning + Formal classroom or online instruction = Mastery of knowledge, skills, and competencies needed for career success.

We know that apprenticeships alleviate pressure students feel about choosing between work and college, creating equitable opportunities for students by opening the doors to experiences needed to thrive in a quickly changing economy. And because the workforce is shrinking, it is increasingly important to provide innovative pathways for young Texans to contribute to a robust economy while building livable-wage careers. By engaging in apprenticeships, young people have opportunities to jumpstart careers in high-demand jobs while learning valuable skills and earning money.

Historically, apprenticeships have often been associated with industries such as manufacturing, plumbing, HVAC, automotive, or shipping that trained their workforce on the job, reaching learning benchmarks set by the employer and overseen by a journeyman.  But as labor shortages have impacted business, “new collar” jobs demand skilled workers in newer industries like advanced manufacturing, information technology, and cybersecurity, interest in apprenticeships and youth apprenticeships is growing. Businesses in conjunction with education communities (i.e., community colleges, high school career, and technical programs (CTE)) can build out earn-and-learn programs that train students in high-need and specialized skills, creating a sustainable pipeline of workers with adaptable skills. In short, apprenticeships connect the learning needs of students with the talent needs of the industry. According to PAYA (Partnership to Advance Youth Apprenticeships), “Youth apprenticeship allows students to complete high school, start their post-secondary education at no cost, get paid work experience alongside a mentor, and start along a path that broadens their options for the future. Youth apprenticeship is a cost-effective talent strategy for employers, as apprentices build skills to meet evolving business needs and develop into valued contributors to their employers’ bottom line.”

As a network of community college leaders and workforce boards, WE CAN TX (Workforce Community College Apprenticeship Network in Texas) is an initiative of Educate Texas, whose vision is to ensure equitable outcomes for underserved and underrepresented, low-income, students of color across Texas to meet the talent and workforce demands of businesses while earning credentials leading to high-demand and livable wage jobs. To reach this goal, our network focuses on sharing best practices through peer learning, and providing technical assistance to our network regions to accelerate learning across urban and rural communities of Texas. Through partnerships with Jobs for the Future (JFF) and PAYA, we envision Texas becoming a leader in apprenticeships leading to more high-value credentials and livable wage jobs. Only 44% of young Texans have a postsecondary certificate or degree. By radically reimagining our education and training systems to bolster effectiveness, eliminate inequities, and create a skilled workforce for Texas, WE CAN TX intends to improve on these statistics. By elevating and shining a light on apprenticeships in Texas, a new model will emerge that improves the economic prosperity of Texans.

To learn more about apprenticeships, check out JFF’s work on apprenticeships. The Texas Workforce Commission website is also a great resource for learning about Texas apprenticeships and what is happening in Texas for National Apprenticeship Week.

Erica Simon is the Deputy Director of Strategy and Higher Education, with a focus on workforce development at Educate Texas. She leads the Workforce Education Community College Apprenticeship Network in Texas (WE CAN TX). WE CAN TX is generously funded by ECMC, Brown Foundation, Lumina Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Bloomberg Philanthropies.