More Idaho workers have enrolled in apprenticeships this year than ever before, broadening the potential for state workforce gains in a tight labor market.
A total of 1,179 new apprentices enrolled in an apprenticeship in 2022, with 81 new apprenticeship programs registered throughout Idaho. Enrollments are up 52.7% from 772 in 2021, and the number of completed apprenticeships has more than doubled.
Additionally, there are 455 active employers in Idaho apprenticeship programs and over 2,000 active apprentices.
Registered apprenticeships are increasingly viewed as a talent pipeline that can help address worker shortages — one of the state and nation’s most pressing workforce challenges. Businesses that register their apprenticeship with the U.S. Department of Labor can access talent trained by federal and state-funded programs like Idaho Launch.
“We need to make sure workers see good wages,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Martin Walsh on a recent stop in Boise. “We also need to make sure they have the skills they need for good jobs in-demand.”
Walsh made his remarks during a keynote speech commemorating National Apprenticeship Week at the Pacific Northwest Apprenticeship Education Conference in Boise (Nov. 14-20).
Statistically, apprenticeships put graduates on a path to greater comparative financial success. In Idaho, the annual mean wage for workers is $47,940, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nationally, the average salary for a Registered Apprenticeship graduate is $77,000. In their lifetime, apprenticeship graduates make an average of $300,000 more than peers who don’t complete such a program.
Apprentices are paid on the job and earn guaranteed wage increases. They graduate with a nationally recognized industry credential; a ticket into the largest growth sectors for high-paying jobs, like cybersecurity and technology.
“For people looking at getting re-skilled or skilled-up in certain areas — apprenticeship can help,” said Secretary Walsh. “Apprenticeship is of value for employers as well, particularly right now. In this administration, we’re expanding apprenticeship programs, we’re celebrating them, we’re diversifying them and we’re also investing.”
Non-traditional recruitment and retention
Brenda Hamilton, North Idaho College Apprenticeship Manager, spoke about how non-traditional apprenticeships also benefit workers across Idaho.
“We are not creating students — we are creating employees,” Hamilton said.
Women are underrepresented in Idaho’s trades and in apprenticeship numbers. As of the second quarter of 2022, only one quarter of the women enrolled in an Idaho Registered Apprenticeship program identified as female. Increasing the number of women in these programs provides a means of broadening the state’s labor force, where right now there are about two jobs available for every individual looking for work.
To combat these challenges, experts on non-traditional apprenticeships and recruiting and retaining women in the trades advised apprenticeship sponsors to focus on three important subjects. These include awareness, mentoring and relationship building.
Recommendations include aligning an apprenticeship with the business’s schedule, providing skill-stacking credentials in apprenticeships, and more importantly, partnering with on-the-job professionals.
- Make sure tutors and trade counselors are available to answer an apprentice’s questions and address their concerns. Mentors boost apprentice retention by helping on-the-job trainees navigate the program and stick with the job.
- Relationship building with community service agencies also has a role in recruiting and retaining diverse apprentices. When businesses don’t have the ability to remove barriers to employment — like a lack of childcare or transportation — they can turn to community partnerships for other solutions.
- Shorter programs allow apprentices to learn the core of their material. Partnering with on-the-job training professionals helps level up the training.
Ultimately, the experts’ advice for employers came down to one important point: Share your story. Trade success stories increase the visibility, mentorship and relationship opportunities that support apprenticeships.
“I want to see people in my community, my state and the Pacific Northwest thrive,” said Hamilton.
People are more likely to believe they can succeed at something if they see others like them succeeding, said Megan Clark, director of strategic partnerships at ANEW.
“If you can see it, you can be it.”
In another effort to increase visibility of career paths, Apprenticeship Idaho released a children’s book about apprenticeship as part of its K-12 initiative. Idaho’s First Lady Teresa Little launched the book with a reading at Owyhee elementary in Nampa. The book, “Booper Dreams Big: An Almost True Story of Apprenticeship,” is available at ApprenticeshipIdaho.gov.
For more information about apprenticeship programs and opportunities in Idaho, visit ApprenticeshipIdaho.gov.
The Idaho Department of Labor’s Apprenticeship Idaho program is 100% funded by the U.S. Department of Labor as part of Employment and Training Administration grants totaling $5,581,491.