Politics

Brown Seeks to Expand Apprenticeship Program

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – A bill introduced by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown would develop new apprentice programs and expand existing ones across the country, the senator said Wednesday.

“Apprenticeships allow workers to get real work experience and figure out where their talents lay and take advantage of opportunities in the trades,” said Brown, D-Ohio, said during a conference call with reporters Wednesday.

Brown said his Apprenticeship Hubs Across America Act would expand apprenticeship hubs that work with employers to develop new programs and promote them to young people. The bill would also create national network of these hubs through the U.S. Department of Labor to share best practices on expanding these programs.

“Too many students don’t realize that apprenticeships can be a way to get their foot in the door and train for good jobs where they can build careers, particularly if they have a union card,” Brown said.

The average wage for a trade worker who completes an apprenticeship program is $50,000 a year, Brown said. For union workers, that rate is generally higher, he noted.

“Apprenticeship hubs will make it easier for high schoolers to take the next step towards securing a good-paying skilled jobs,” he said.

Brown was joined by Tammy Tansey, administrator of the apprentice-in-training program at Bricklayers Local 5 in Independence, who said that these programs are invaluable to adopting a skilled workforce.

The Bricklayers, Tansey emphasized, trains apprentices not just in that skill, but also in tile work, marble, terrazzo, finishers, cement and stonemasons, and plasterers.

“There’s a wide range of crafts that we train for,” she said. Depending on the craft, the apprentice programs on average run between three and four years. “It will consist of on-the-job training, and some classroom or related instruction time.”

Applying to the Bricklayers’ program, Tansey added, is simple. Candidates must be at least 17 years old, hold a driver’s license or a state identification, be able to pass a drug test and obtain an intent-to-hire letter from a signatory contractor.

“On average, depending on the craft, apprentices start out at $16 an hour, and cap out when they get their journeyman card at $30 an hour.” This does not include health or pension benefits.

“College is not for everybody,” she said. “An apprenticeship is an excellent alternative way to get well-paying jobs for people who don’t want to take that path.”

Still, college credits are earned for classwork time, Tansey said, and many emerge from the program with associate degrees. “It could be a springboard other careers and jobs in our industry. The could be contractors, business owners, or architects.”

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.