Some Nebraska employees and students can jump into a career commitment while learning a trade for pay, and employers can offer such an opportunity to build workforce.
The North Platte Area Chamber and Development Corporation, North Platte Public Schools, Nebraska Department of Labor and one employer were all represented at a presentation on registered apprenticeships Thursday morning at McKinley Education Center. Other interested employers can visit the Department of Labor’s website for more information.
An introductory video pointed out that the word “apprenticeship” is often associated with old-fashioned trades like blacksmithing. However, the registered apprenticeships through the Department of Labor feature multiple fields — health care, computers and manufacturing, to name a few.
The registered apprenticeships give the worker a paid job while learning the skills and a permanent job at the end of the program. At the end of the apprenticeship, the worker earns a certificate from the Department of Labor. In many situations, the employer works with an area college to enable the worker to earn a certification there.
“We really need to have a culture change on how we think about training employees,” said Scott Asmus, a program coordinator with the Department of Labor who led the presentation.
Asmus said he hears from many adults who are unhappy with their careers but cannot afford the time or money to change careers, especially while raising a family.
“What I’m finding is a lot of students go to college for a safety blanket,” he said, adding that such students fear, “What do I do if I don’t have a degree?”
An apprenticeship offers an alternative. The length of the apprenticeship, whether the apprentice receives college credit, wages and other factors are all determined by the employer, Asmus said.
Registered apprenticeships must all meet Department of Labor standards, and each is recognized by the Department of Veterans Affairs. For veterans, this could mean receiving a GI Bill stipend on top of the wages earned at the job, Asmus said.
Unlike traditional internships, the registered apprenticeship “is a long-term commitment,” he said.
The Nebraska Department of Labor has also created youth apprenticeship programs, starting last year in Grand Island. The high-school apprentice works part time, building skills and earning a full-time job after graduation.
Vikki Carlson, a director of teaching and learning for North Platte Public Schools, said the school system is in the “exploration” stage working with the Department of Labor, in hopes that it may someday help expand the school district’s current internship program.
The internship program available to students at North Platte High School earns students school credit, Carlson said.
“This is more for people who are driven and want a specific thing,” Carlson said of the apprenticeship program. “We would like to see this as an extension and almost a capstone” for the existing program.
While factors in specific registered apprenticeships are decided by the employer, many of the same factors in the student apprenticeships are decided by the school, Asmus said.
No representatives from Mid-Plains Community College attended the presentation. Chuck Salestrom, area associate vice president of public information and marketing for the community college, said college officials have not met with the Department of Labor representatives, but the college does have an internship program.
John Hales, vice president of the Chamber, pointed out that Asmus spoke both of student apprentices who won’t go to college, as well as those who would use an apprenticeship to further their education.
“We’re for everyone,” Asmus said.
Hales said apprenticeships would be a good way to train people in North Platte and help keep students from area schools in the community.