- The U.S. Department of Labor awarded Dec. 17 more than $8 million in contracts to four East Coast organizations working to expand apprenticeships in sectors it said have been particularly impacted by the pandemic.
- Three of the recipients — based in New York, Maryland and Virginia, respectively — will use the funds to target supply chain-relevant industries such as advanced manufacturing, automation and nanotechnology and semiconductor production. A fourth organization, based in Philadelphia, will use them to focus on the "care economy" serving individuals, families, elderly persons and those with disabilities.
- DOL said the contracts commit each organization to enroll an average of at least 750 registered apprentices and are part of a broader agency initiative to bring the apprenticeship model to industries in which it traditionally has not been utilized.
Employers have turned the page on a new year, but 2021's talent crunch persists. Analysis of federal job openings data last month by Glassdoor found that the current job market features a lower ratio of unemployed workers per job opening compared to previous economic downturns, largely due to the pandemic.
Apprenticeships have previously featured in organizations' talent strategies, even at the local level. HR Dive profiled in August the use of apprentices at a South Carolina auto part manufacturer whose program relied on local high schools and community colleges as talent sources.
As far back as 2020, however, the pandemic affected the ability of some apprenticeships to function. Many saw their operations shift to virtual or off-site learning, while some pivoted apprentices' activities to benefit public health measures, HR Dive previously reported.
In late November, DOL launched an online dialogue to solicit feedback from stakeholders about how it could improve access to registered apprenticeships for members of marginalized communities. Responses to that query included ideas such as apprenticeships for incarcerated individuals; the use of screen readers to test accessibility of apprenticeship communications; and education for employers about the benefits of apprenticeship, among other items.
That same month, the administration also signed a memorandum of understanding with Switzerland, under which the two countries agreed to expand apprenticeships among Swiss and Swiss-invested companies operating in the U.S.
However, DOL also rescinded a Trump administration effort allowing employers and other stakeholders to create their own versions of the federal government's registered apprenticeship programs.