Earn while you learn: 100 Years of Apprenticeship

by Secretary Hilda Solis on June 6, 2011 · 4 comments

Secretary Solis with leaders from apprenticeship programs along with administration officials to commemorate 100 years of apprenticeship.

This morning I had the honor of hosting an event on the National Mall to commemorate 100 Years of Registered Apprenticeship.

First established by Wisconsin state legislation in 1911, the United States Congress instituted federal registered apprenticeships in 1937 when it passed the Fitzgerald Act. The bill’s sponsor, Connecticut congressman William J. Fitzgerald, worked in a foundry as a young man. 

The Fitzgerald Act protects the safety and welfare of apprentices and brings together employers and labor for the formulation of apprenticeship programs to train workers in specialized skills while earning a living wage.

Initially, Registered Apprenticeship programs existed mainly in the manufacturing, construction and utilities industries.  After World War II, Registered Apprenticeship began to expand into training of health and safety workers, including firefighters, police, and emergency medical technicians.  New generations are engaged in this unique ‘earn while you learn’ model in emerging industries such as information technology and health care, as well as culinary arts and child care.

Today as I commemorated this historic program, I was joined by inspiring young apprentices, including the Labor Department’s YouthBuild and

Secretary Solis at a brick laying apprenticeship booth on the National Mall

Job Corps students, who are getting the skills they need to re-build this country – and their lives.  They demonstrate the necessity for registered apprenticeships now more than ever as we strive to get Americans back to work by providing job-seekers with the skills to land good-paying jobs, while linking employers with highly trained talent.

From the stage, Kevin Burton of the National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee moved me – and the gathered crowd — with the story of how apprenticeship brought her out of poverty and into the working class.

Ian Brady, a journeyman and United Association’s national apprentice of the year, shared with the YouthBuild and JobCorps participants present how he was able to earn a living while developing his trade through his apprenticeship.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: joint apprenticeships are one of this country’s best kept secrets.  But from the National Mall this morning, I was proud to let the secret out.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ruth Leon Guerrero June 6, 2011 at 9:20 pm

Guam has applied for a recognition to establish an Apprenticeship State Agency under the Guam Department of Labor. The process was long but we would soon realize the efforts done with the help of Mr. Al Valles of the Hawaii Bureau of Apprenticship Training Agency.

Guam is also interested in establishing a Job Corps Center when over a decade, Guam has been under the Honolulu Job Corps Program and only has been assigned no more than 10 slots per year. Because of culture and environment, Guam’s job corps trainees have not been successful with the Hawaii program. Therefore, Guam Department of Labor is hoping Guam will be authorized a Job Corps Center, a stepping stone to Apprenticeship program, considering our isolation and limitations for other youth training and employment opportunities.

We all are grateful to your office, Ms. Secretary Solis, for the new direction you are leading U.S. Department of Labor. And for this, Guam thanks You!

2 Liliane Alvarez Tristao June 6, 2011 at 10:29 pm

I am very proud to see your work for the youth of America.

What about Puerto Rico?

I have a young daughter , age 19, fully bilingual Eng/Spa, computer literate, college student at Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico Metropolitan Campus.
In search for an apprenticeship position this coming summer.
Thanks.
Need info from Puerto Rico.

3 Chris Goodson June 8, 2011 at 9:33 am

How are we going to get these employers on board with hiring and joining in these apprenticeship programs? Honestly, many of those that did participate in the Registered Apprenticeship program have stopped or shut the doors. I am encouraged to go and give it a try with newer companies and grease the wheels on the more established industries. It can be a real challenge at times. It is an act of faith in many ways.

4 Jeff Allener June 19, 2011 at 10:56 am

It is great to see that apprenticeships are still held in such high regard. Apprenticeships have long been the cornerstone of a productive society and as we move forward in today’s job market I do believe that they will remain highly relevant!

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