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"Outsmarting the skills gap"
Subcommittee Continues Education and Workforce Initiative to Promote Earn-and-Learn Opportunities

The Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development held a hearing today, exploring earn-and-learn opportunities for workers through apprenticeship programs. The Subcommittee also heard how changes to the Registered Apprenticeship program may improve opportunities for employees and lead to greater employer participation.

Today’s hearing builds on the committee’s ongoing efforts to strengthen workforce development and education, while continuing to raise awareness of apprenticeships, as the White House did with the executive order of June 15, 2017.

“For workers, apprenticeships are a chance to prepare for today’s high-skilled, in-demand jobs, alongside long-time industry professionals,” said Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY), chairman of the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development.

Witnesses before the subcommittee included workers and employers who have found success in apprenticeship programs, and encouraged Congress to continue its efforts to promote workforce development programs.

“When you employ the earn-while-you-learn model and support individuals with lifelong learning and mentoring, the opportunities are endless,” said Michael Bennett, vice president of Cianbro Companies.

“If we believe in our youth, the underemployed, and the unemployed, and if we’re willing to invest in their development, this country can outsmart this skills gap and workforce shortage,” Bennett said.

Robert Peglow, a student with the Kentucky Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (KY FAME) apprenticeship program, shared his story of how the program has provided him with a unique opportunity compared to a traditional degree program.

“I immediately discovered this wasn’t an ordinary technical program,” said Robert. “I was able to work three days a week as well as go to school the other two days. I have learned more than I could have possibly imagined both in work and school.”

Stacey Hughes, chairperson for KY FAME, explained KY FAME partners with companies create programs to recruit a future workforce with for the manufacturing industry.

“FAME helps companies develop curriculum and programs to grow their current and future talent base,” said Hughes. “The partnership between employers and educators ensures a high standard of industry quality in program delivery.”

Members also asked witnesses about the need for flexibility in apprenticeships programs outside the federal government’s Registered Apprenticeship program.

 “The construction industry has not been built on registered apprenticeships alone,” Bennett added. “Many organizations are providing workforce development opportunities for their teams that are outside that registered apprenticeship model.”

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce will continue to explore innovative earn-and-learn opportunities as the private sector seeks solutions to the skills gap.