Having seen the success of manufacturing apprenticeship programs, state Sen. Henri Martin, R-Bristol, has cosigned two bills that would seek to apply those methods to other career paths, including health care, finance and the trades.
Martin, whose district includes part of Plainville, said that, for years, the manufacturing sector had been telling legislators that they don’t have enough skilled employees to hire to replace retiring workers. However, over the past decade, manufacturers have been working with school boards and the department of labor to see that students are getting the training they need.
“In 2016, a committee was established to coordinate education for careers in manufacturing,” Martin said. “The commissioner of education and the Board of Regents were charged with compiling a catalog of programs in public and private schools that provide training in manufacturing, including certifications and licenses. They were asked to analyze whether these programs were meeting the workforce needs. They were also told to introduce programs in the middle schools to expose students to this career path. This is the exact sort of communication we need.”
Martin said that he wants to see the same model expanded and applied to health care, finance and the trades.
“We don’t want to re-invent the wheel - this model is a great way for introducing these careers to the youth,” said Martin. “It has been very successful over the years.”
Martin said programs can’t wait until students go through high school to reach out to them. High schools, he argued, usually push students toward college.
“It is costly to go to college and if you don’t pick the right degree, then you won’t even make as much as you could,” said Martin. “There is also the large debt associated with it.”
A bill introduced by Martin, Formica and state Sen. Heather Somers proposes the creation of a new public agency, the “Apprenticeship and Employment Recruitment Authority,” which would be responsible for creating apprenticeship and work-based education opportunities through public-private partnerships.
“Vocational programs are limited in many parts of the state,” said Martin. “In Bristol, there are programs for HVAC and automotive. But there are also careers available in plumbing, electrical and carpentry.”
Another bill, introduced by state Sen. Paul Formica, proposes that the labor department study Germany’s apprenticeship training program and report on the results of the study to the joint standing committee of the general assembly.
The stated purpose is to “pursue alternative apprenticeship models to encourage growth in the manufacturing talent pipeline in the state.”
“We are looking at German, Swiss and South Carolina models,” said Martin. “The European model has come to America and it is used in many larger companies, like Trumpf. The business community is involved in education and is involved in the development of many of these programs to make sure that students have the basics and skills required. Many of them offer employer tax credits.
“The students will gain the basic fundamentals and they are usually also well on their way to certification for higher paying jobs. Participating in these programs does not close the door to college either - many of them allow students to earn some college credits and some even allow them to earn pay. It’s a great initiative and Germany and Switzerland are currently ahead of us on it.”
Martin said that both bills have had hearings and that the one to study Germany’s model is currently “moving forward to draft.”