Editorial: Apprenticeship could solve labor and student loan problems
As the school years come to an end and students graduate, there is plenty to do to begin new phases of life.
The focus is usually on the start of college. It’s an important step that helps prepare the next generation of doctors and lawyers, teachers and engineers.
But we need more than these college-educated professionals to make the world go round.
Pennsylvania – like most states – is always full of open job opportunities in all industries. From the most basic entry-level positions in retail and foodservice, the openings are there.
Going to work straight after graduation isn’t just about running a cash register or flipping burgers and shouldn’t be dismissed as such.
There is also a crying need for skilled labour. Industries such as construction and manufacturing have had needs prior to the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the job market. Positions such as machinists, carpenters, electricians, plumbers and others are in high demand in communities across the state.
But how does one become competent in these trades if one has not opted for vocational and technical training in high school? What if you didn’t know this was something you might be interested in until now? What if you don’t want to pay to go to tech school for something you haven’t done yet?
These kinds of questions could prevent graduates or adults who have been out of school for a few years from trying a potentially lucrative new profession. Not answering these questions is what keeps jobs vacant.
The solution could be old: learning.
“Learning overcomes these challenges through comprehensive employee ‘upskilling’ while bolstering recruitment and retention efforts to further close the skills gap,” said Chris Ray, Executive Director of Workforce Development. work at the Pennsylvania College of Technology.
Apprenticeship is a way for people to learn by doing. It helps businesses by allowing them to train people for exactly what they need. It helps apprentices by having an education that is more practical than conceptual and with a salary instead of impending student loan debt.
For the state, the victory lies in the marriage of needs creating the type of deep workforce attractive to companies looking to build or relocate.
Nearly 1,600 apprenticeship programs are registered with Pennsylvania CareerLink. Nearly 17,000 apprentices are actively engaged.
We need more on both sides. Instead of asking for entry-level employees with years of experience – a foolish opposite – companies should look at their real needs and see how they could create the perfect employee from scratch.
And future workers — especially high school students planning for their future — need to look outside the academic setting and consider what opportunities might be available to find their dream jobs.