WASHINGTON — Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said Tuesday that apprenticeships are the need of the hour and should grow in all sectors, especially in the fields of health care, technology and cyber security.
Job apprenticeships will fuel the growth of the American economy, he told at an event organized at the Newseum by National Journal. This is National Apprenticeship Week.
“We want to make sure apprenticeship is robust in every single zip code across this country,” Perez said. “The earn-while-you-learn model is tried-and-true.”
He explained that an apprenticeship graduate makes an average starting salary of $50,000 a year. Over a career, that graduate will make an average of $300,000 more, including wages and benefits, than peers who don’t apprentice, he said.
“On the employer side, apprenticeship is a great strategy for recruiting and retaining top-notch workers who keep the business productive and profitable,” he added.
Under apprenticeships people learn the skills of a job while being employed, rather than study at an institution such as a college or trade school. Perez pushed for the apprenticeship model to be widely implemented and extended to women, communities of color and underserved people.
Perez, who served as the secretary of Maryland’s Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation between 2007 and 2009, predicted that, “we are on the cusp of a game-changing apprenticeship movement.”
Perez talked about building a “human capital infrastructure” by constructing a “skills superhighway.”
He said that the “superhighway” would give people a ticket to join the middle-class. “The superhighway also has dedicated lanes for people with specific needs. Whether it’s disconnected youth, people with disabilities, veterans, people coming out of the criminal justice system and so much more,” Perez said.
The Obama administration paid out $175 million in American Apprenticeship Grants last year, the largest ever federal investment in apprenticeship, he said.
Perez highlighted the growing importance of the Registered Apprenticeship College Consortium, a national network.
“It has 222 colleges, and it allows graduates of apprenticeship programs to take their years of on-the-job training and convert them into credits toward an associate or bachelor’s degree at any of the member schools,” he explained.
President Barack Obama wants to double the number of apprenticeships in the coming years, he said.
“We’re already making substantial progress toward adding more than 70,000 apprentices nationwide, nearly a 20 percent increase, in the last two years.” the secretary said. “We want to double and diversify.”