This month, our country celebrated the 8th National Apprenticeship Week (NAW), in which industry, labor, education and government work together to provide career opportunities through apprenticeships. recorded. Now, more than ever, recorded apprenticeships are important as they are used to fill our country’s talent gap in critical areas of the economy, especially in advanced manufacturing and technology-related industries.
Many countries with which we compete in the global economy have fostered strong apprenticeship programs and have thus become world leaders in specialties such as semiconductor manufacturing, nanotechnology and clean energy. Meanwhile, in the United States, apprenticeships were widely seen as suitable for respected trades such as carpentry or plumbing, but not suitable for much else. This assumption is wrong, and we will need to adjust our view of apprenticeships if we are to equip our workforce with the advanced skills necessary to ensure that the United States remains an economic leader in the 21st century.
Understand that we have a problem
The passage of the CHIPS Act in July 2022 marked an important moment for our country in realizing that American technological talent and manufacturing capacity, especially in semiconductors, had become a national security issue. We have gone from 37% of world production in 1990 to just 12% today. Other countries have gained market share through ambitious investments, not only in chip manufacturing facilities, but especially in talent pipeline development programs to ensure that their national semiconductor industries have workers to fill the jobs and that workers are armed with the skills to succeed in the modern economy.
It is in the latter case that we fall short. While the CHIPS Act is meant to put us on a better path, companies looking to relocate their semiconductor manufacturing to the United States face a huge talent shortage. There just isn’t enough talent in the pipeline. This is where the learnings hold the greatest potential to enable us to once again become the world leader in chip development.
More effective training
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed an issue that has long been brewing in painful detail: there is a mismatch between the skills the US education system teaches students and what employers need, with two particular pain points being cybersecurity and technology.
Historically, internships have been our primary mechanism for providing students with on-the-job training in cybersecurity and technology. However, these are often short-lived and vary wildly in the level of practical experience they give students – and they do not guarantee work placement.
In contrast, Registered Apprenticeship Programs (RAPs) are developed in partnership with industry, aligning the program with the skills employers actually need. Programs can be structured to nurture entry-level positions and to allow for “climbing” with the host company, so that apprentices are not only employed in target jobs, but are able to to advance. Employers benefit from more effective and structured training and higher attraction and retention rates. Job seekers benefit as they are paid and receive progressive salary increases when participating in tiered programs.
As the employer designs the program, many apprenticeships also do not require the usual training required by other high-skilled jobs. This opens the door to a multitude of different candidates from non-traditional backgrounds or at different points in their careers, which helps to diversify the composition of those who fill these highly qualified positions.
Benefits for employers
However, the beauty of apprenticeships is that they’re not just good for workers – they have a number of strategic benefits for employers.
Training times can be significantly reduced or planned with better accuracy. Because the employer is involved in the apprenticeship program and with new tools designed to assess skills, identify gaps and target training, employers have less to worry about skills mismatches among their entry-level employees. New innovative, competency-based RAPs allow apprentices to receive training based on their needs and the requirements of the target job, making training much more efficient and valuable for both parties.
Additionally, retention rates among apprentices are generally much higher than employees entering a company through other means. DVRIC, a Philadelphia-based organization specializing in regional economic development, reported that nationally, companies with an apprenticeship program had a 90% retention rate and a return on investment of $1.47 for every dollar spent on an apprentice.
Strengthen the talent pool
The United States has proven time and time again that we are up to the task of innovating and solving problems to ensure our nation’s success. Resizing our lack of semiconductor manufacturing capability begins with building a robust talent pool and the best way to do this is to expand apprenticeship programs across all sectors.
NIIT is dedicated to leading the nation’s talent development in semiconductors and nanotechnology. Our National Talent Hub is the first of its kind, establishing a nationwide infrastructure to connect individuals to job training and education, while our registered apprentices connect with job seekers, educational institutions and businesses across the country to expand the use of apprenticeships in the semiconductor and nanotechnology industries. Through greater adoption of learning across the economy, we will expand the pool of skilled talent, provide access to quality opportunities to a wider range of workforces, and ultimately address the shortage of tech talent in the country.
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