Should we revive apprenticeships?

Years ago, one way young people could train for occupations was to work with experts in the fields they were interested in entering. These on-the-job programs are called apprenticeships, and some say we should bring them back. N.C. State University economist Mike Walden explains why.

“Apprenticeships really are getting a second look now, but we only have about 5,700 active apprentices right now in North Carolina. There’s been a big decline in most states over the last 20 -odd years.

“And, of course, … what these apprenticeship programs do is they take individuals — particularly in areas like crafts, technical, vocational jobs — have that person actually work in a real job with a professional and learn on the job. And studies show that for these (so-called) middle-income jobs — like the ones I just mentioned  —  … we may actually be facing a shortage of qualified workers. …

“I think this is why were hearing more and more about perhaps bringing back appprenticeships. And our neighbor to the south, South Carolina, has actually gotten a jump on us. They have revived the apprenticeship programs there,  particularly in their auto sector. The auto companies there have been expanding — the auto assembly companies have expanded. They have worried about getting qualified workers. There was actually … some talk of importing qualified auto workers from Germany, but they decided to really expand their apprenticeship programs.

“And what they do in South Carolina (is) they have tax credits that help pay for these programs — tax credits to the businesses, something that many states may want to consider.

“So we may hear more about apprenticeships. A lot of questions here: Who operates them? How do they operate? Should there be public support? I think we will hear a debate.”

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