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Apprenticeship programs are a "time-tested model" that "employers can use to recruit, train and retain a highly skilled workforce," says John Aiken, apprenticeship director for the Minnesota Department of Labor & Industry. And Minnesota, Aiken says, can help. IMAGE: Minnesota Department of Labor & Industry

John Aiken, director of labor standards and apprenticeship, Minnesota Department of Labor & Industry: How Minnesota helps employers set up apprenticeship programs

ST. PAUL, Minn. – A statewide labor shortage and changing business landscape continues to challenge Minnesota companies to find and grow skilled workers.

By 2024, Minnesota is projected to have a shortage of nearly 400,000 workers in several key industries including construction, manufacturing, health care, information technology and transportation.

This jobs gap poses real challenges to employers large and small – and impacts the future competitiveness of Minnesota in a global economy.

Apprenticeship is a proven model employers can use to recruit, train and retain a highly skilled workforce. This time-tested model delivers structured on-the-job learning in combination with classroom instruction to develop the highly skilled and motivated employees necessary to compete in the 21st century global economy.

Apprenticeship Minnesota at the Minnesota Department of Labor & Industry works with employers to explore apprenticeship models within their businesses and help them design their own programs that provide apprentices with specific skills, rigorous training and job-related instruction tailored to the company's needs.

Technical instruction, coupled with on-the-job training, equips apprentices with industry-specific knowledge that contributes directly to a business’s bottom line.

The apprenticeship model continues to expand with support from the business community and public investment.

In June, Apprenticeship Minnesota received a $1.8 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to support outreach, employer engagement and other apprenticeship initiatives throughout the state.

Other apprenticeship success stories, such as Pequot Tool & Manufacturing in Pequot Lakes, Minn., are growing as Minnesota companies discover the benefits of investing in an apprenticeship.

“Thanks to our apprenticeship program, we’re able to hire based on attitude and aptitude,” said Chad Shogren, president, Pequot Tool & Manufacturing.

“Our apprentices work inside our organization to build the specific skills they need to be successful.

“It’s working very well. We’ve seen our employee retention rate increase as our turnover rate has dropped to less than half of what it was previously – and that’s half the industry standard.”

Assistance and informational tools

The Apprenticeship Minnesota website (www.apprenticeshipmn.com) provides information and tools to help educate both employers and potential apprentices about the potential of apprenticeships.

Employers can learn more about their opportunities and responsibilities as an apprentice sponsor, read about grants to reduce program costs and watch video testimonials from successful apprenticeship programs.

The website also features other video testimonials from current apprentices and information for potential apprentices, parents and teachers to learn more about the benefits of apprenticeship.

Grants and free services available

Apprenticeship Minnesota offers free services to help employers with the development, registration and launch of their apprenticeship strategy and program. There are cost considerations, but many can be reduced or addressed in other ways. For example, apprentice supervision, administrative support and related classroom instruction are aspects of development that require expenses. But companies can leverage existing leadership and human resource functions to reduce costs.

The Minnesota Apprenticeship Initiative is also a useful resource for companies that are looking to build an apprenticeship program but need financial help. MAI currently offers grants in high-growth industries such as agriculture, health care, information technology and manufacturing to help employers with start-up costs associated with developing their apprenticeship programs.

Employers can get up to $5,000 for each apprentice to help cover costs, including apprenticeship-related supplies, materials, instruction and infrastructure.

More than 35 programs already have been developed in these industries to date as part of that initiative.

Today, Minnesota has nearly 200 active registered apprenticeship programs in high-growth and high-demand industries such as advanced manufacturing, construction, health care, utilities and transportation.

Prairie Business readers are welcome to contact Apprenticeship Minnesota (www.apprenticeshipmn.com) to find out more about how to build an apprenticeship program to meet the needs of their business.

John Aiken

Director of Labor Standards and Apprenticeship

Minnesota Department of Labor & Industry

john.aiken@state.mn.us