Earlier this year, President Barack Obama announced a goal to double the amount of apprenticeships in the United States over the next five years, connecting ready-to-work Americans with ready-to-be-filled jobs.
Lehigh Valley Workforce Investment Board, a nonprofit that serves as the hub for Pennsylvania CareerLink Lehigh Valley and the connection between the workforce and training entities, was chosen as one of 50 organizations across the nation to attend an information session on the initiative.
Nancy Dischinat, CareerLink’s executive director, was surprised when she got the call from the U.S. Department of Labor with an invitation to attend the first American Apprenticeship Summit on Monday in Washington, D.C. to serve as part of the think tank in helping to implement Obama’s mission.
“It was intense,” Dischinat said after returning from the summit. “It was interesting to learn how passionate that everyone is about all of this.”
The summit came on the heels of Obama’s announcement of $100 million in American Apprenticeships grants for growing industries to scale-up apprenticeship programs that work. The grants will be launched in the fall and will focus on partnerships between private and public organizations. Dischinat said she is hoping that CareerLink Lehigh Valley, which is based in Allentown, will receive a grant to start an apprenticeship program.
To implement the president’s commitment, in June six roundtables across the nation were held, with leaders in key high-growth industry sectors to gauge interest in the apprenticeship model and to ensure new investments meet business needs for skilled workers.
The sessions focused in the growing industries of transportation and logistics, health care, construction, energy, manufacturing and information technology.
Dischinat attended the construction session, offering feedback and suggestions on the needs of more apprenticeship programs in the nation, and especially in the Lehigh Valley.
“We provide recruitment, skills and job training, and there are many avenues that we have been developing resources for,” she said. “And we need a model to put all of the pieces together."
“I think we are right for apprenticeship,” she said. “I think we have some strong programs and companies that are trying to refuel their workforce, and apprenticeships are another way to upgrade the skills of their hires.”