According to the Hampton Roads State of the Workforce and Gap Analysis report, “"The Hampton Roads region is home to more than 40,000 establishments that are expected to add more than 30,000 jobs in the next five years.” Many of these openings are in high-demand “skilled careers” in industries such as advanced manufacturing and shipbuilding and provide applicants with an opportunity to build a career while assuming little to no debt and a great salary. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the average starting salary for an apprentice upon graduation is $50,000.
One of the key tools needed in addressing the skills gap – or the difference between the openings in high-demand jobs and the workforce qualified to enter them – is apprenticeships. A registered apprenticeship combines on-the job training with related academic instruction that is delivered to accelerate career development in a particular field. They are supervised and mentored by highly-qualified personnel and are then hired as full-time employees of a sponsoring company.
The good news for youth is there are several apprenticeship programs in our area. The TCC Apprenticeship Institute partners with more than 20 organizations to connect students to programs. And, many sponsoring companies cover the cost of tuition and fees for apprentice-related instruction. These apprenticeships represent an investment in applicants and, ultimately, a graduate’s future success becomes a return on their investment.
Recently, one of the largest apprenticeship programs in the area, Huntington Ingalls Industries’ Apprentice School held commencement exercises for 157 graduates of their program. The Apprentice School is celebrating its centennial anniversary this year. Over the last 100 years, the school has produced more than 10,800 graduates.
Current Modeling and Simulation Apprentice at HII Danielle Johnson shares, “Before becoming a modeling and simulation apprentice I had to first complete two years on the waterfront in my trade as a maintenance electrician. I had no prior electrical experience, but learned on-the-job from experienced craftsmen. I decided to accept an advanced apprenticeship in modeling and simulation. Now I have a career in a coveted field. I work alongside peers with bachelor’s and master’s degrees and find that my insight from my on-the-job training is truly a valuable complement.”
In addition to providing a highly skilled workforce to local economies, apprenticeships can help employers with retention and provide a means to transfer knowledge from seasoned employees to new workers. This is especially important, as according to EMSI, a labor analytics firm, “Nationally, 55% of workers in skilled careers are ages 45 and over” and may be considering retirement. These programs can help ensure a future workforce.