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Apprenticeship changes lives, especially women’s

Our nation marks National Apprenticeship Week from Nov. 14 through 20 to remind workers and employers of the importance and value of Registered Apprenticeships.

Registered Apprenticeships are a time-honored, “earn-as-you-learn” model that opens pathways to good-paying careers that provide better benefits and greater job security. About 93% of workers who complete Registered Apprenticeships gain employment and earn an annual average starting wage of $77,000.

However, women and especially women of color remain severely underrepresented in these programs; women make up only 14% of active apprenticeships. In the male-dominated trades, less than 4% of apprentices are women. Discrimination, systemic barriers and other long-standing obstacles have historically prevented women from access to these opportunities and left them segregated in low-paying jobs traditionally held by women. The time for change is now, and work is underway to dismantle the discriminatory barriers.

The Biden-Harris administration is making unprecedented investments in our nation’s infrastructure that will create good union jobs with family-sustaining wages and opportunities for women. We know that apprenticeships can be an avenue to getting women into these opportunities. To date, $3.3 billion in funding has been announced for 90 projects in Indiana.

The department’s Women’s Bureau supports efforts to recruit, train and retain more women in quality pre-apprenticeship and Registered Apprenticeship programs, as well as non-traditional occupations through the Women in Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Occupations grant program. Through this innovative program, award recipients provide support services and job-skills training to prepare women for promising careers while simultaneously helping employers to create a work culture where women can succeed.

In October 2022, the Women’s Bureau marked its 30th year of collaborative efforts with community organizations to get more women into pre-apprenticeships and Registered Apprenticeships and to connect them with stable, good-paying jobs. In its 30 years, the Women’s Bureau has worked closely with its grant recipients and learned a lot about what needs to be done to recruit and retain women in apprenticeships. One of the important lessons we’ve learned is that women participate and succeed in job-training programs at higher rates when they receive supportive services like child care.

Apprenticeships change lives. We are determined to break down barriers women face as they seek to enter these programs and then thrive once they do. It’s never been more important for us to advance training, employment and return-to-work opportunities that connect women to higher-paying jobs, so that our nation’s economic recovery brings with it greater equity.

Editor’s note: Gina Rodriguez is the regional administrator of the U.S. Dept. of Labor’s Women’s Bureau in Chicago.