Apprenticeships have played an important role throughout our nation’s history, building and shaping the structures of our communities, and strengthening our economy. America’s workforce has evolved since the Colonial days, but apprenticeships remain a valuable pathway for Americans to learn the skills to succeed in good paying and rewarding jobs.
This week marks the 80th anniversary of the passage of the National Apprenticeship Act (also known as the Fitzgerald Act), which directed the U.S. Department of Labor to work with industry and states to promote apprenticeship programs across the country, and to formulate and promote labor standards necessary to safeguard the welfare of apprentices . The Act was integral in creating a new foundation for apprenticeship.
In the first half of the twentieth century, apprenticeship programs mainly involved the manufacturing, construction, and utilities industries. But after World War II, apprenticeship began to expand into new industries, training generations of firefighters, police, emergency medical technicians, and others. Today, hundreds of thousands of apprentices are employed in more than 1,000 occupations – and there’s more growth on the horizon.
In June 2017, President Donald J. Trump signed an Executive Order calling for the expansion of apprenticeships and reduction of regulatory burdens on workforce development programs. The Department of Labor is partnering with industry groups, companies, nonprofit organizations, unions, joint labor-management organizations, and many others to help them design apprenticeship programs that fit their unique industry.
We at the Department of Labor are committed to increasing the number of quality apprenticeships, including expansion into high-growth, emerging sectors where apprenticeships have historically been rare. This earn-while-you-learn model has historic and proven results, and we know that success will continue for generations to come.
John Ladd is the Administrator of the Employment and Training Agency’s Office of Apprenticeship and Training Administration.