Senate higher-ed chief calls for more apprenticeships

The Senate higher-education chairwoman wants the state to help establish apprenticeships in three key industries.

During her recent tour of Minnesota state campuses, Minnetonka DFLer Terri Bonoff said, many students expressed anxiety over whether they’d find a job after they graduate.

“In addition,” she said, “I hear from the businesses in the area that there’s a skills gap. So I’m thinking, ‘OK, what’s missing here?”

Bonoff wants to create apprenticeships in advanced manufacturing, health care services and information technology — fields she says face high growth or suffer from worker shortages.

As a first step, her proposed legislation would have the state establish competency standards for future apprentices in those fields.

She said that unlike countries such as Germany, the U.S. has relatively few highly structured apprenticeships outside of construction trades.

“That’s why there’s a skills gap,” she said. “We don’t say that if you want to pursue a career in advanced manufacturing, before you graduate you need to accomplish this, this and this.”

The proposal recommends that state officials work with industry leaders on the skills apprentices would learn.

They would also consider how businesses and colleges provide the training.

  • rockhunter

    Apprenticeships for competent students who are near graduation would be a valuable experience for the students. It is good that the legislation includes competency standards for the students before being allowed to apprentice. The last thing that business owners want is a flood of students who earned Cs and Ds in all of their courses wanting to do C and D work for their companies. If that happens, businesses will refuse to offer apprenticeships. I am skeptical. Will there be enough business owners wanting to take an untrained student into their workplace for three months? Training takes time away from experienced workers. The apprentices should be paid a salary. Then they will be leaving before they become competent. If the apprentice can not do profitable work then one semester apprenticeships are going to be a hard sell. Do you want an apprentice writing the programs for your business, doing important health care work, or manufacturing items that will be recalled if they are not perfect. New employees are risky.

  • Emil Barnabas

    To be clear on a few definitions, a Registered Apprenticeship program combines classroom instruction and on-the-job training and lasts for 3 to 4 years depending on the occupation. There are over 900 apprenticeable occupations. Apprenticeships are paid positions. At the end of the apprenticeship, the apprentice gets an industry-recognized credential.
    Compare this with an Internship, which probably lasts less than a year and might not be paid employment.