This week marks the fifth anniversary of National Apprenticeship Week, a time to celebrate the students, educators and businesses who are working together to open up even brighter futures for North Carolina’s young people. There is a vast landscape of apprenticeship opportunities in our state, in part because North Carolina companies and talent providers have fully embraced the benefits of work-based learning. Last fiscal year, more than 11,300 registered apprentices were served by ApprenticeshipNC alone, and since January 2017, the U.S. Department of Labor estimates that more than 583,000 Americans were hired through their apprenticeship program. Our members know the value of investing in their apprentices, and it’s clear this model of developing top talent isn’t going away.
For students and others taking advantage of these programs, an apprenticeship is an opportunity unlike any other. While gaining real-world, on-the-job experience, apprentices typically earn degrees debt-free and make money. As one Siemens apprentice told us last year, an apprenticeship wasn’t always part of his plan, but it’s unlocked new opportunities for his future.
NC Chamber members of all sizes, across industries and throughout the state have invested in work-based learning through apprenticeship programs—there are almost too many to list! Follow along on our social media this week as we highlight our members’ apprenticeship programs and let us know here if you’d like to be featured.
In Zebulon, GSK offers logistics and manufacturing technician apprenticeship programs, offering students the opportunity to see how the company sources materials, manufactures products and delivers them around the world. Glen Raven, a textiles manufacturer, offers a four-year program in association with the Alamance Career Accelerator Program. Smithfield Foods launched their apprenticeship program this year in Goldsboro to provide hands-on experience in engineering and mechanic training, and Lowe’s is in their second year of the Track to the Trades pre-apprenticeship and workforce development program in Charlotte and other cities throughout the country. In the energy sector, Duke Energy and Pike Electric are both committed to building the next generation of talent through their work-based learning programs and investments in training programs. Apprenticeships aren’t just for the skilled trades either—we’ve written before about IBM’s “New Collar” apprenticeship program that involves more structured career pathway and training programs, and organizations like Biltmore and Biogen offer unique learning opportunities for young people interested in their fields.
Apprenticeships are a key piece of the puzzle to solving the skills gap and other workforce challenges—which is why many community organizations have taken up the cause and are supporting businesses in their area. ApprenticeshipNC provides support, best practices and a visionary path forward for apprenticeships in our state. Regional collaboratives include the award-winning and innovative Apprenticeship 2000 in the Charlotte area, North Carolina Triangle Apprenticeship Program, Guilford Apprenticeship Partners, Apprenticeship Rockingham, Apprenticeship Randolph, and many more. We are also proud to host the NC Chamber Foundation Apprenticeship Council, where our members can share best practices with each other and advise our team on the challenges, successes and opportunities they face.
Apprenticeships can change the trajectory of workforce challenges for a number of industries in our state including manufacturing. As the exclusive state affiliate for the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), we’re currently exploring the Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (FAME) program and how we might scale that in our state. Stay tuned for more on that program in the coming months.
The future of apprenticeships in North Carolina is bright—especially as more young people take advantage of these unique and lifechanging opportunities. We’re proud that so many of our members and North Carolina businesses are leading the way on innovative apprenticeship programs and look forward to sharing more about them on social media throughout this week.