The Electrical Worker online
September 2015

From the Officers
index.html Home    print Print    email Email

Go to
Respect Apprenticeship

We make a mistake in the labor movement when we talk about apprenticeship as an alternative to higher education. I have often heard people say that apprenticeships are an excellent fallback for people not cut out for college.


Apprenticeship is not an alternative to higher education, it IS higher education. When our apprentices top out and get their journey license, they are prepared — safely and productively — to harness the power generated by holding back rivers, splitting the atom or the sun itself. We can put it to good use and go home safely at the end of every day.

That is not higher education?

If union-run apprenticeships were a university system, they would be the third largest in the U.S. Every year AFL-CIO apprenticeships educate 450,000 men and women with no government subsidies or loan programs. Only the state university systems of Ohio (520,000) and New York (468,000) are larger.

And our graduates leave job-ready, without debt and holding a paycheck.

Apprenticeships should no longer be left out of the national conversation about making higher education more accessible and affordable. There are some excellent ideas, worthy of our support, which would share some of the cost of apprenticeships across an economy that benefits from them.

For example, a bill introduced by Sens. Maria Cantwell of Washington and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York would give a $5,000 training tax credit for every qualified apprentice a health care, manufacturing or technology company hires. It is not surprising that a senator from Washington would introduce the bill. A 2015 study issued by the state's workforce board found $23 in economic benefit for every $1 of state money supporting apprenticeships.

A separate bill sponsored by New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina would give a $1,000 tax credit to any company that hires an apprentice over age 25 and $1,500 for apprentices under 25.

It makes simple sense. It is long overdue. Apprentices deserve not only our country's respect but its support.


Also: Stephenson: Excellence Shines at Florida Power Read Hill's Column

Salvatore J. Chilia

Salvatore J. Chilia
International Secretary-Treasurer