apprentice working in workshop.

It’s no secret that today’s skilled trades leaders are struggling to find, hire, and retain sufficiently trained workers. Within the manufacturing space alone, current trends suggest that by 2028, a staggering 2.5 million workers will need some form of yearly training in order to keep pace with workplace needs, while approximately 21 million new hires will need new employee training. Across the trades industry at large, a gap like this seems to be widening between the skills we need today’s workers to be capable of, and the ones they’ve been sufficiently trained to fulfill.

Examining the barriers to upskilling today’s workforce

When we critically examine this growing skills gap, it’s important to identify the barriers that may hinder today’s workforce from participating in the upskilling necessary to keep pace with changes in their jobs. If the issue at hand is that the workers aren’t getting the training they really need, we need to ask ourselves what’s keeping these workers from completing the right training.

The heart of the issue may lie in inequitable access to practical training solutions, namely ones that allow our workers to continue earning money and working while upskilling simultaneously. Given the fact that the skill-sets we need today’s trades workers to have are always changing, we find ourselves in a place where many of today’s workers semi-annually need further training in order to keep up. If these workers aren’t employed by organizations who are flexible in accommodating training time, or supportive financially as well in guiding workers through these training needs, inevitably a training gap will continue to exist.

The implications of this ongoing training conundrum can be summarized by David M. Rubenstein fellow Annelies Goger, who shares,

“Our education and labor market support systems have failed to keep up. (We have) an educational system that poorly serves its largest student population- nontraditional adults.

The traditional model of higher education is no longer sufficient to keep up with the rapid pace of technological change, leaving the majority of Americans behind. Employers tend to underinvest in training, which leaves them paying a premium to compete in narrow pools for talent and ill-equipped to find or cultivate the full range of talent that exists.”

It seems that perhaps the leaders who are struggling to find the right talent, and the workers who are struggling to find the right upskilling options would both benefit from an industrywide focus on more practical, accessible training solutions. This is where a focus on the learn-and-earn model comes into play.

What does learn and earn mean?

“Learn-and-earn" refers to a job training approach in which a worker is both “learning and earning” at the same time.

There are several different types of learn-and-earn models. However, apprenticeships have often been cited as the quintessential learn-and-earn model at our disposal, given the extensive evidence that demonstrates that apprenticeships have successfully connected workers to middle-skill jobs, while delivering strong returns on investment for the employers who support them.

In this dynamic, the “earning” refers to a wage that an apprentice worker receives from an employer while they are learning on the job as an apprentice. This wage is pre-determined, and the funding is sometimes split initially between an employer and the public sector.

Benefits of the learn and earn model

For one, this model gives employers the peace of mind knowing that the workers being trained through their provided apprenticeship programs are developing all the skills necessary to add value to the organization as a regular employee. Additionally, the apprenticeship model also has a proven history of increasing subsequent employee retention. It would make sense that our workers feel more inclined to remain part of a workforce that has demonstrated an employee-employer loyalty dynamic by providing a pathway for accessible training. Put simply, when you invest in your workers, they often invest in you too.

Not only that, this model is one that eliminates numerous barriers faced predominantly by what Goger referred to above as “nontraditional” learners. For one, many of today’s adult learners simply cannot afford to participate in training if said training requires them to choose between working and upskilling. These learners understandably may not be able to financially accommodate a period of time in which they are studying and not bringing home a paycheck. The apprentice model is a practical way of alleviating this burden by providing more financially inclusive, accessible education by allowing today's learners to get paid for the work and upskilling that they do.

How Penn Foster is supporting businesses in providing learn and earn opportunities

Leaders within the trades industry are already working to offer Penn Foster’s modern training solutions and apprenticeship opportunities to help close the skills gap and better prepare today’s workforce to meet changing needs.

In 2017 alone, Penn Foster placed more than 5,000 apprentices with more than 500 employer partners over the course of 12 months. In the time since then, these figures have continued to grow as Penn Foster works to partner with organizations who value the role apprenticeships play in providing a comprehensive training experience to their workers. These include:

MetroPower – The premier commercial electrical contractor throughout the Southeastern United States. A partner of Penn Foster since 2003, they offer the technical instruction component of their apprenticeships online, allowing MetroPower apprentices to complete their work on their own schedule.

Carmeuse – A global performance materials and services leader with core competencies in mining, equipment, material processing, and engineering solutions. Another Penn Foster Partner, Carmeuse helps their employees further their trade skills by offering Industrial Electrician Apprenticeships, Millwright Apprenticeships, Mobile Diesel Mechanic, and Frontline Supervisor training programs to their employees.

Through partnerships such as these, Penn Foster is dedicated to helping hardworking people across a number of skilled trades industries and has longtime valued the practicality and effectiveness of apprenticeships as a model built to help workers and employers alike. For more information on how Penn Foster’s programs can meet your unique training needs, contact a Penn Foster training expert today.