Ron Hamm Participates in Conversation with U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Tom Perez

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Washington D.C., November 04, 2015 .   

On November 3, coinciding with National Apprenticeship Week, Ron Hamm participated in a National Journal event featuring a conversation with U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Tom Perez.  The discussion focused on job driven workforce skills training for the modern workplace and the utilization of apprenticeships and collaboration with employers to help grow a stronger American middle class and economy.

Secretary Perez emphasized that our nation must change its perspective regarding apprenticeships and workforce and views them as investments instead of costs.  He also said that we must abandon the “train and pray” approach and focus on a job-driven workforce training that sees employers as the customers, a position that my higher education clients demonstratively support.   He articulated that there needs to be a greater appreciation (acknowledgment and validation) of competencies and that institutions clearly need to know what industry needs so that they can prepare a pipeline of workers to fulfill those demands.

The discussion on the value of apprenticeships and the life-changing opportunities they provide for hardworking Americans striving toward a higher quality of life was enlightening.  Presently and in the future, apprenticeships are seen as an on-ramp onto our nations’ skills superhighway and a method to move from the cannibalization of human resources to building a sustainable pipeline of trained workers that will help strengthen our economy and middle class for the long-term. Labor Unions were recognized for being critical partners with industry to create these types of opportunities for workers.  Secretary Perez emphasized several times that the Department of Labor and employers must “double down and diversify” to make apprenticeships available to women and people of color.   He also mentioned the need to give a second chance to ex-offenders who seek to employment opportunities to improve economic and social outcomes for themselves and their families.

Secretary Perez reiterated that the Department of Labor and other federal grant funding is designed to be catalytic to grow partnerships to advance apprenticeships.  He specifically pointed to initiatives funded by the Department of Labor’s recent American Apprenticeship grant awards that totaled $175 million.  He stated that President Barack Obama has been intimately involved in efforts to raise the stature of workforce training in the United States and invest federal resources accordingly.

Ron was able to ask Secretary Perez what one piece of advice would he give to community colleges in their efforts to advance workforce development through apprenticeships.  He said that community colleges should make it a priority to join the Registered Apprenticeship-College Consortium (RACC), which is managed by the US. Departments of Labor and Education and emphasizes articulation.

RACC members include employers, labor-management groups and associations that have Registered Apprenticeship programs (known as sponsors) and two- and four- year postsecondary institutions.  More information concerning RACC is available at (http://www.doleta.gov/OA/racc.cfm). I would strongly advise institutions and industry with a focus on apprenticeships to explore the consortium.

Based on the Secretary’s comments and my work with community colleges, universities and their partners, I would advise institutions to focus on providing demand driven instruction, meeting people where they are academically and professionally, devising and using sector strategies, and establishing meaningful partnerships.  Implementing these tactics will result in the development of an effective and sustainable workforce ecosystem.

In closing, it was highlighted that there are multiple pathways to prosperity and apprenticeships, community college and a 4-year college and universities all provide opportunities for people to achieve their goals and dreams.  We must make sure that students, potential workers, and workers aspiring to advance are provided with the requisite skills via each respective pathway.

We can discuss further.  Please contact me at rhamm@hammconsulting.com or 202-596-8384 for more information.

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