Guest Commentary: Apprenticeships beneficial to economy

Sun, 10/30/2016 – 7:00am | The News-Gazette

Students of all ages across our country are back to school.

And while there are many disputes about education policy, there is no disputing its fundamental purpose – to prepare Americans for the jobs of tomorrow.
In Illinois, our fastest growing industry is construction. And construction is projected to grow at twice the rate of Illinois’ economy over the next decade, adding thousands of new
middle-class jobs.

Accessing these jobs in the fastest-growing skilled trades typically requires at least three years of apprenticeship training. And new research from the Illinois Economic Policy Institute and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign shows that the average impact of that training – in the form of increased earnings over an entire career – is greater than the effect of associate’s degrees and many bachelor’s degrees.

So what is an “apprenticeship?”

Apprenticeships have been around for nearly a century. They are governed by state and federal standards that ensure proper certification of graduates. Funded almost entirely by private entities such as employers, labor-management groups and unions, they require almost no out of pocket costs for students, and better yet, enable students to “earn while they learn” – collecting a paycheck while learning a skilled trade on the jobsite and in the classroom. Best of all, they ensure that our state has a pool of skilled tradespeople to meet our long-term infrastructure and building needs.

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