To many, the word “apprentice” evokes images of teenagers in Colonial America learning to make barrels, casks, and buckets alongside the local cooper, or forging iron tools for the village blacksmith.
While these jobs have been replaced by automated production lines and now only exist in very small comparison to their numbers from centuries past, the time-tested practice of apprenticeship may be seeing a rebirth in the U.S., due in large part to the shortage of skilled employees that companies need to sustain their workforce.
According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report released in June 2017, there were more than six million vacant jobs that American workers were unable to fill, the highest level on record. The BLS also found in a 2015 report that the country is projected to produce one million fewer technical workers than is needed over the next decade.
“The widening skills gap in the U.S. is a significant business concern, and companies – large and small – are seeing this workplace strategy that combines on-the-job training with classroom instruction as a viable solution to build a pipeline of future skilled talent,” said Lisa Bisaccia, EVP and Chief Human Resources Officer for CVS Health.
Today, CVS Health is part of a growing number of white-collar companies investing in earn-and-learn apprenticeship programs typically associated with the skilled blue-collar trades. Companies like Accenture, Alcoa, Dow, Ford, Mercy Health, Salesforce.com, Siemens, and Zurich North America have all launched worker training programs to help address their own skills gap. These investments have helped to fuel the growth in apprenticeship in the U.S., which stood at more than 500,000 in 2016, up from 375,000 three years earlier, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. However, many more programs will need to be created to fill the 5 million jobs that remain unfilled due to the nation’s skills gap.