Guest Opinions

Apprenticeships play a vital role in meeting Idaho’s workforce needs

Ken Edmunds
Ken Edmunds

In Idaho and across the nation, apprenticeships hold training opportunities in industries we don’t normally think of, such as health care, information technology, advanced manufacturing, transportation and energy.

In fact, with a national network of more than 150,000 employers in more than 1,000 occupations, our country’s apprenticeship system has trained millions of apprentices during the past 75 years.

In Idaho, apprenticeships are a partnership among industry, education and government.

Today, close to 350 apprenticeships are registered each year and approximately 950 Idahoans are currently enrolled in apprenticeship programs, acquiring job skills and experience while pursuing their education.

This is all good news — but we still have work to do. While the United States can point to around 375,000 apprentices, Germany has about 1.8 million working with 500,000 employers. That’s why the U.S. Department of Labor is committed to doubling the number of registered apprenticeships in the U.S. in the next five years.

In Idaho, we are trying to do our part by raising awareness and educating local leaders and businesses about the benefits of apprenticeship sponsors.

Idaho Power has successfully graduated 611 apprentices through eight accredited programs. Its largest program, the lineman apprenticeship, is currently training 44 individuals in a goal-oriented, highly structured program.

The College of Western Idaho, the West Ada School District and the Masonry Apprenticeship Council of Southwestern Idaho have also initiated an apprenticeship program. Starting jobs the masonry graduates will fill are expected pay $12-$14 an hour, with an anticipated wage increase of $6-$8 an hour for masonry workers already employed.

In North Idaho, the Idaho Forest Group’s successful apprenticeship program offers training in log scaling, electrical, millwright and information technology. They currently have 22 apprentices, with plans to expand by four to eight within the month.

At the Idaho Department of Labor, we offer a wide variety of resources for businesses, job seekers and training providers who want to apply for or participate in apprenticeships:

▪ Information and a self-guided course on how to identify, enroll or sponsor an apprenticeship.

▪ Specific, customized career information on trades with registered Idaho apprenticeships.

▪ Access to a federal list of Idaho apprenticeship sponsors by county.

▪ A directory of construction apprenticeship sponsors.

For every dollar a business invests in apprenticeship programs, they see a $27 return on investment, including increased productivity and profitability, standardized training, reduced turnover, access to tax credits and more. Nationally, the starting wage for an apprenticeship graduate is more than $50,000 and apprentices will, on average, earn $300,000 more over their lifetime than their nonapprentice peers.

Clearly, apprenticeships are good for every aspect of Idaho’s economy.

Ken Edmunds is a Twin Falls businessman, director of the Idaho Department of Labor and former president of the Idaho State Board of Education. To learn more about the services available to help foster apprenticeships in Idaho, visit labor.idaho.gov and click on National Apprenticeship Week.

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