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Conference highlights apprenticeships in North Carolina

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ApprenticeshipNC, a program through the North Carolina Community College System, hosted its annual conference in mid-April to host employers, apprentices, and other stakeholders to learn more about best practices and strategies for apprenticeship programs.

Different from a traditional educational experience, apprenticeships allow participants to learn trades and develop skills through paid on-the-job training. 

Chris Harrington, director of ApprenticeshipNC, said apprenticeship programs provide apprentices a key quality desired by most employers: experience. 

“What do employers want? Basic employment skills, industry specific skills, company specific skills, and a growth mindset. What do all those have in common? They’re hard to acquire in a classroom,” Harrington said.

Harrington told attendees that apprenticeship programs not only benefit employers by providing a well-trained workforce but also provide economic advantages to apprentices later on in their careers.

On average, someone who began as an apprentice will earn about $300,000 more over the course of their career than a non-apprentice doing the same job due to accelerated earnings, Harrington said.

The conference allowed attendees to network while learning more about strategies for retention, mentorship, marketing, and more. The event also highlighted promoting diversity among apprenticeships and strengthening historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and employer partnerships through apprenticeships.

“You can’t really talk about diversity or degree attainment in the state or apprenticeships and workforce development without talking about HBCUs,” said conference panelist Dr. James Ford, executive director of the Center for Racial Equity in Education (CREED).

Danielle Rose, Director of Experiential Learning at Forsyth Technical Community College (FTCC), told those at the conference that FTCC is working to improve equitable access to male-dominated manufacturing apprenticeships for women. 

Rose said one way to promote access for women is by providing students and apprenticeships role models and representation, such as the female department chair of the college’s manufacturing program.

“So we’ve had a couple of female students who may have experienced discrimination in the workplace. And because when they come to class each day, there is a female presence, they feel like they can talk through that with them, get advice and work through those situations,” Rose said. 

Youth Apprenticeship Week

ApprenticeshipNC is celebrating its first Youth Apprenticeship Week May 5 through 11 to promote and celebrate opportunities youth can have through registered apprenticeship opportunities. 

Last year 353,177 youth ages 16 through 24 were served by apprenticeship programs across the country. 

Gov. Roy Cooper proclaimed the week as Youth Apprenticeship Week in North Carolina. The week was created by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Apprenticeship.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the feature photo was Chris Harrington, director of ApprenticeshipNC. It has been corrected to state that the photo is John Loyack, Vice President of Economic Development at the North Carolina Community College System.