Federal Apprenticeship Grants Include Youth-Focused Programs

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Barack Obama

Andrew Harnik / AP

President Barack Obama announces new steps to expand apprenticeships and a push to make community college free for responsible students Wednesday.

WASHINGTON — A $175 million federal investment in apprenticeship programs includes models that focus on the needs of youth and young adults.

The Obama administration announced American Apprenticeship Grants for 46 public-private partnerships. The groups aim to train and hire 34,000 apprentices in industries such as health care, information technology and advanced manufacturing during the next five years.

Leaders of projects that emphasize training for youth and young adults said the grants will help them share information about apprentice programs, identify programs and develop materials to prepare young people to participate, as well as build relationships with employers.

“I’m really excited about helping young people engage with the right information and make them aware of things they didn’t even know were out there,” said Earl Buford, president and CEO of the Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board.

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The group will lead “Compete Midwest,” a multicity effort that includes Milwaukee, Detroit and St. Louis, with the goal of expanding 15 to 25 existing apprenticeship programs and starting seven more.

In Pennsylvania, the workforce development board Philadelphia Works will lead a five-county project focused on information technology and behavioral health apprenticeships for youth ages 16 to 24.

The group’s $3 million grant will be used in part to develop a pre-apprenticeship curriculum that prepares young people for work by sharpening their literacy and math skills.

Sue Hoffman, senior associate for innovation at Philadelphia Works, said the pre-apprenticeship curriculum aims to address two problems the group has noticed: young people who are unprepared to begin an apprenticeship or who are unable to complete an apprenticeship.

The curriculum will be approved by potential employers and available for any youth-serving organization to use.

“We’re very excited to be able to create these pathways of opportunity for youth and young adults,” she said.

Sebastian De Vivo, director of development at the MCS Economic Development Corporation, the lead partner on the OpenTech Los Angeles Regional Apprenticeship Collaborative, said the group will begin its work in Los Angeles, then expand to other cities.

The group will be investigating which elements of an apprenticeship program work well in all places and which need to be tailored to local conditions. That’s information they will be eager to share with other groups.

“We’re really open to collaborating — sharing our research, sharing our data and sharing our curriculum,” he said.

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