The White House recently released the fact sheet entitled “American Job Training Investments: Skills and Jobs to Build a Stronger Middle Class,” which outlines initiatives to promote apprenticeships, and partnerships between community colleges and industry that develop a viable apprenticeship pathway for American workers. While there is still no initiative to align high school curricula to allow apprenticeship training pathways, and no discussion of dual-enrollment in apprenticeship training for high school students, the grants and programs outlined in the fact sheet mark a step in the right direction for providing affordable, work-based pathways to promising employment outcomes for more Americans. I hope that Tennessee community colleges will take advantage of the opportunities.
I’m also encouraged by improvements in the U.S. Department of Labor’s Registered Apprenticeship website, which has made searching for an apprenticeship easier. The site has many similarities to England’s Apprenticeship.org.uk site, and seems to have used the English National Apprenticeship Services website as a template. Try clicking on both the links and see the similarity for yourself. Unfortunately, I found the difference between the two as soon as I tried to search for an actual apprenticeship on each. The U.S. site lacks the wealth of opportunities available in England’s more developed apprenticeship system, but we must start somewhere, and the changes mark steps in the right direction.
U.S. Registered Apprenticeship also lacks the consistent branding and use of searchable terms employed by England’s National Apprenticeship Service. The acronym, “DOLETA”, for the Department of Labor Employment & Training Administration, is hardly a household term and isn’t associated with apprenticeship in the public mind at all, so it’s just confusing to call the domain name www.doleta.gov/oa/. They’ve added a new apprenticeship search website called “My Next Move” – another name that doesn’t include, or suggest, the word apprenticeship. If the goal is to establish the apprenticeship pathway in the minds of Americans, the Department of Labor needs a consistent brand with the word ‘apprenticeship’ prominent and searchable.
The new initiative also lacks the advertising blitz that the British government made when it reinvigorated its apprenticeship program. England’s National Apprenticeship Service has a youtube channel with youthful, modern videos explaining the pathways for both potential apprentices and employers, and a social media presence targeted toward youth. I also saw a wealth of advertising promoting the National Apprenticeship Service while I was in England, and representatives from the National Apprenticeship Service had a visible presence at the education conferences, career fairs, and in the high schools I visited.
We’re Americans. If there’s one thing we know how to do, it’s market a brand. Can’t we do a better job, here? Why not use apprentices to promote the apprenticeship brand? Marketing and online media entrepreneurship are just the sorts of fields that we should be using apprenticeship pathways to advance. While living in Leeds, I interviewed an eighteen year old young woman working as an apprentice with an upstart business magazine who was overflowing with excitement as she described how she was learning print advertising and media design on the job.
The newly released Department of Labor fact sheet describes one purpose of the grants here:
“These grants will build from strength and invest in innovations and strategies to scale apprenticeships – including to market the value of apprenticeships, make them more attractive to women and other Americans who have been underrepresented, increase the return on investment for workers and, or build national and regional partnerships to expand apprenticeships.”
Aren’t there any promising, young female or other underrepresented marketing apprentices who could work with a hot marketing firm to “learn while they earn” and promote the brand of apprenticeship in the minds of American employers and youth?