As baby boomers retire and taking with them their years of expertise, the workforce is faced with a growing need for skilled workers to step in and take their places.
But in Whatcom County and throughout the country, employers are finding that the skilled workers they need aren’t always readily available.
One effective way to address that dearth of employable workers is to start an apprenticeship program, where youth can earn money while training under seasoned experts to do the jobs they’ll be needed for in the coming years.
To that end, the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries provides apprenticeship consultants to help businesses identify the best type of apprenticeship program for their company and to guide them in getting it set up. These programs are called “registered apprenticeships” because they’re registered with the state and follow structures established to maximize the benefit for both businesses and apprentices.
These apprenticeships can last from one to six years and consist of on-the-job training and a minimum of 144 hours per year of related instruction, which is provided by state community and technical colleges through the apprenticeship program. There are no fees for registering an internship, and studies have shown that for every dollar an employer invests in the program, the return is $1.38.
Whatcom County employers who decide to tap into the apprenticeship program are connecting to a well-established system that already is training many youth for family-wage jobs.
In the construction industry, for example, according to L&I, there are more than 135 existing apprenticeship programs in the state training more than 9,000 apprentices in total. Under apprenticeship utilization requirements, many public works jobs require that construction employers have apprentices working for them.
Of course, registered apprenticeships don’t have to be related to the construction industry. For example, a search of local apprenticeships shows positions available for such careers as cooks, dog trainers and diesel mechanics for youth who want to earn money while learning their profession.
To get started with a registered apprenticeship in Washington, contact the L&I consultant for Whatcom County in Bellingham. For answers to frequently asked questions about registered apprenticeships, visit the state L&I website.