SuperTalk Mississippi

Wicker looks to upgrade apprenticeship programs in MS

photo courtesy Office of Roger Wicker, screenshot taken from video of Wicker on Senate floor, 7/28/2017

U.S. Senator Roger Wicker has introduced legislation aimed at bolstering apprenticeship programs, which would help American workers develop the skills required to succeed in today’s economy.

A study that was conducted by Department of Labor shows that over 90 percent of apprentices find employment after completing their program, and their average starting wage is $60,000 annually.

“A young person who wants a job in a particular field can earn money while they receive on the job training from experts in that field and so we try to encourage apprenticeships because they work,” said Senator Wicker. ”

Wicker added that according to a study that was conducted by Department of Labor, over 90 percent of apprentices find employment after completing their program, and their average starting wage is $60,000 annually.

“Apprenticeships are an important workforce development tool,” said Wicker. “These programs provide a unique opportunity for people to receive on-the-job training with experts in their field while they ‘earn as they learn.’ The purpose of my legislation is to streamline government bureaucracy, making it easier for employers to create an apprenticeship program or update an existing one. This should lead to giving American workers more options and opportunities to get an affordable education and a well-paying job.”

Wicker said that the new legislation would specifically do two things.

  • Require the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) State Apprenticeship Agency to act on applications within 90 days after an application is submitted.
  • Forward the application to the DOL if the State Apprenticeship Agency does not make a decision in the allotted time.  DOL would then have 30 days to make a final determination or the application will be automatically approved.

Wicker said that President Trump is interested in expanding apprenticeships as well.

“This is just a good way to put Americans to work,” said Wicker. “Particularly those who want to work without the burden of a student loan debt.

He said that Graduates of apprenticeship programs see as much as a $300,000-lifetime increase in earnings, without the burden of student loan debt.

“Why wouldn’t we want to have the most efficient approval process?” said Wicker. “I think we will end up getting good bi-partisan support for this in the House and the Senate.”

Keith, Paton, who is a board member of the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) and is VP of service for Ivey Mechanical Company, said he stands behind the legislation.

“As a mechanical contractor in Mississippi, I am thrilled that my Senator is fighting for my industry,” said Paton.”Our industry is in desperate need of new talent. Increased opportunities for apprenticeship programs will be vital to fulfilling the need for construction field co-workers and the 115,000 HVAC technician jobs that our industry has to fill by 2022.”

Wicker added that streamlining government bureaucracy would make it easier to create apprenticeship programs.

Senator Wicker said that the legislation was introduced back in October and that they are currently waiting for a hearing.

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