Blast from the Past: Why Manufacturers Should Get More Involved in Registered Apprenticeships

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by | Jul 28, 2021

By Matt Fieldman, Executive Director of America Works, a NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) National Network Initiative

Polaris MEP is the Rhode Island Center for the MEP National NetworkTM, whose mission it is to strengthen and empower small and medium-sized manufacturing companies in the United States. This MEP National Network post focuses on innovative approaches in manufacturing workforce development.

There is no “magic worker tree” where small and medium-sized manufacturers can instantly grab workers and plug them into open positions. Rather, American manufacturing is better served by making a concerted investment in our current workforce, so workers feel valued, appreciated and understand they have a bright future in manufacturing.

To do that, we’re going to need to travel back in time and take a page out of the playbook of yesteryear – specifically, we’re going to need to rejuvenate apprenticeships in this country. Now, before you click back to cat videos and funny memes, hear me out.

Just like modern manufacturing has come a long way from the factories of the past, so have modern apprenticeships. Here are four reasons your manufacturing company should take a serious look at registered apprenticeships in 2021 and beyond:

1. You Have a Strong Team Behind You

In addition to your local MEP Center (Polaris MEP for Rhode Island manufacturers), which can tap into best practices in apprenticeships through America Works, the national nonprofit JFF’s Center for Apprenticeships and Work-Based Learning is an active and supportive partner in this area.

JFF is currently contracted to register at least 750 new apprentices per year, with 50% coming from underrepresented populations (with a focus on women and people of color). Their resources include structures, curricula, how-to guides and even marketing materials. Companies can even receive incentive funding to assist with launching these apprenticeship programs!

Working with JFF is a win for your company, a win for your workers and a win for your local community.

2. Apprenticeship Improves Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Manufacturing apprenticeship - apprentices at work in a manufacturing companyMany potential manufacturing workers out there are from underrepresented communities, and they are leaving low-wage jobs with the hopes for a better future for themselves.

A long-time restaurant or healthcare worker might have exactly the passion, dedication and commitment that a manufacturing business is looking for; they just need a chance and the career pathway that apprenticeship offers.

If your company wants to make an impact in advancing social justice in this country, launching an apprenticeship program is a strong and bold move in that direction.

3. Manufacturing Apprenticeship Works

ASA Workforce Monitor Chart - apprenticeships make people more job ready than college The numbers speak for themselves. Ninety-seven percent of employer sponsors recommend apprenticeship programs, 91% of apprentices stay at the job where they’ve received training and employers receive an average of $1.47 of increased productivity for every dollar spent on apprenticeship.

In short, lower turnover and more engaged employees are always a good thing.

4. It’s About More Than Apprenticeship

While registered apprenticeship is great because of the structured training it offers for the individual, focusing on this area will actually strengthen your company across the board. For example, the formal mentorship required by apprenticeships could actually help all your employees. Creating new bonds to high schools and colleges could lead to all kinds of new employees, not just apprentices.

Reviewing the hiring process will help selection and onboarding for every position and developing a more thoughtful approach to workforce – including better employment planning, training, and evaluation – helps management across the enterprise.


So, Now That You’re Inspired About Manufacturing Apprenticeships

Take a first step in this area.

Read the new whitepaper by our sister MEP Center, the New Jersey MEP (NJMEP), that gives a full analysis of apprenticeships, including valuable ROI statistics that will help you sell this idea internally.

Then, reach out to Polaris MEP to discuss what apprenticeship could bring to your Rhode Island manufacturing company. Put your concerns on the table, because chances are good that a local partner – like your community college, state workforce board or this MEP Center – will take on that burden or alleviate that fear.

Bringing apprenticeships back is the right move for manufacturing in Rhode Island and across America, allowing us to stay competitive globally while supporting communities and workers locally.


Contact Senior Workforce Manager Lindsey Brickle at to discuss registered apprenticeships as a recruiting and training tool for your RI manufacturing company. 

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