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Apprenticeship: An answer to Minnesota's skills gap

An editorial by Ken Peterson, Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry commissioner

Across Minnesota, employers are worried about the shortage of job candidates with the necessary skills and abilities to enter high-demand occupations.

For more and more employers, the answer to addressing this skills gap is to use the centuries-old apprenticeship training system that combines on-the-job learning with formal classroom instruction to train workers for today's more complicated, technical jobs.

Employers use apprenticeship programs to recruit, train and retain a more highly skilled, diverse and inclusive workforce that suits their business needs. For their part, apprentices earn livable wages that increase with training while they learn and practice related skills and workplace safety. When they complete their apprenticeships, workers are given a nationally recognized certification attesting to their mastery of skills, just as college graduates receive diplomas.

Today, nearly 200 active registered apprenticeship programs in high-growth, high-demand industries, such as advanced manufacturing, construction, health care, utilities and transportation, are training apprentices in Minnesota. The programs have more than 11,250 registered apprentices, including more women, minorities and veterans than ever before. Each program offers apprentices a clear career path from unskilled learner to expert craftsperson.

Most apprentices in our state are in the construction trades where the average starting apprentice pay is almost $22 an hour. There are also several thousand apprentices in non-construction fields. This past year, 28 new apprenticeship programs began in Minnesota's manufacturing, health care and transportation sectors.

One of these newly established apprenticeship programs is offered by Uponor North America at its manufacturing facility in Apple Valley, Minnesota. Uponor will use apprenticeship to train its maintenance technicians to take care of the company's manufacturing equipment and keep production flowing as it builds plumbing, radiant heating and cooling, and fire sprinkler systems for residential and commercial customers. Through apprenticeship, the company hopes to retain its workforce and continue to produce high-quality products.

Another new apprenticeship program is operated by Mount Olivet Rolling Acres, a nonprofit in Chanhassen, Minnesota, offering care and services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Mount Olivet Rolling Acres has developed a direct support professional apprenticeship program and plans to enroll 30 apprentices throughout the next three years to work at group homes throughout the metro area. The responsibilities of apprentices in caring for and supporting residents will grow as they learn.

Apprenticeship programs are a partnership between employers, labor, education and government with a shared commitment of establishing career opportunities to build our state’s workforce and continue to strengthen our economy.

To learn more about apprenticeship, visit

National Apprenticeship Week in Minnesota is Nov. 13-19, 2017.


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