The manager of an Iowa apprenticeship program says there’s more demand for skilled workers than his program that trains plumbers, welders and technicians who work on heating and air conditioning systems can supply.
“Apprenticeship has been the best kept secret for a long time. If you have a conversation with people about apprenticeships, they know what the work is, but they don’t understand the true meaning of apprenticeship. I think that’s been the biggest problem,” says Jason Shanks, the training director for the Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 33 in Des Moines.
The apprenticeship program Shanks runs lasts five years and the cost for the apprentice is only $200 a year, plus a contractor hires that apprentice as a “helper” and they earn a paycheck.
“Day one they get the same benefits that I receive, health care,” he says. “…They don’t have a huge student loan debt when they’re done. They have a career.”
There are 753 apprenticeship programs registered with the State of Iowa today. Duane Boswell of Iowa-based TMC Transportation says his employee-owned company started a “heavy truck” apprenticeship program in the early 1990s and today there are a thousand drivers enrolled.
“One of our greatest challenges and frankly one of the greatest challenges in the over-the-road trucking industry is finding enough quality individuals to drive our trucks,” Boswell says. “It’s not everybody that wants to be out a week at a time or more.”
But the apprentices who go to work for his trucking firm can earn $50,000 in their first year of training, plus they get health benefits. Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds invited the two apprenticeship program managers to speak at a news conference at the statehouse this morning.
“There is a significant skills gap in Iowa and across this nation,” Reynolds says. “And as we continue to work every day to grow this economy, we need to make sure that we have that talent pipeline in place not only to meet the jobs of today, but to meet the jobs of the future.”
A new state program started in 2013 provides $3 million annually to cover the some of the costs of equipment, materials and other expenses for apprenticeship programs in Iowa.