National Apprenticeship Week was created by President Barack Obama to let America in on something IBEW members already know-- being paid to learn a trade is smart.

Across the country, in every state, there are events planned from Nov. 2-6 to show off the value of apprenticeship programs for individuals, businesses and the country.

One of the highest profile events will be an open house hosted by Washington D.C., Local 26 Nov. 3 at its training center in Lanham, Md.

Secretary of Labor Tom Perez is scheduled to join a panel moderated by Local 26 Business Manager Chuck Graham that will include apprentices, trainers, and local elected officials.

“We are very proud to welcome Secretary Perez to our training center,” Graham said. “His presence proves something we’ve been saying for a long time: This is a model that works for our contractors and our apprentices and the entire country.”

Collectively, the building trades and signatory contractors privately fund more than $1 billion for apprentice and journey-level education at more than 1,600 training centers in the U.S. And unlike college students, apprentices are paid while they learn, nearly $11 billion just last year.

For every dollar invested in union apprenticeships, signatories get three back Graham said, and union workers make $300,000 more over their career than nonunion workers. The employment rate for those who finish their apprenticeships is 87 percent. 

“The equation isn’t complicated. The average college student graduates with $30,000 in debt, while the average fifth-step apprentice earns $50,000 a year,” Graham said. “Events like this get the word out.”

Many other IBEW locals are hosting events at their training centers, including Fresno, Calif., Local 100.

Local 100 Business Manager Kevin Cole said he wants to highlight not just the traditional journeyman inside apprenticeship program, but the multiple pre-apprenticeship programs Local 100 created with other trades.

“We want to share the best kept secret in North America: union apprenticeship,” Cole said. “I hear from people too often ’If I only had heard about this 10 years ago.’ Apprenticeships change lives.”

National Apprenticeship Week comes only a few weeks after the September announcement of more than $175 million in American Apprenticeship Grants. The Electrical Training Alliance, which oversees the IBEW’s apprenticeship program, received $4.6 million through the program. The money will fund new programs at 11 training centers in the next year, expanding to all 285 in the years to come.

“Whether it is a bachelor’s degree, an associate’s degree, a journeyman’s card from an apprenticeship program, having a credential above and beyond your high school diploma: that’s the surest ticket to the middle class,” Obama said.

 “This may be a national event, but it doesn’t change what we want to highlight,” Cole said. “Apprenticeships increase opportunities for our contractors and bring in people who need a break.”