National Apprenticeship Week Celebrates a History of “Creating Tomorrow”

National Apprenticeship Week (NAW) is a national celebration that offers leaders in business, labor, education and other critical partners a chance to demonstrate their support for apprenticeship.

In honor of the 1937-passed “Fitzgerald Act,” which established the U.S. Department of Labor’s Registered Apprenticeship, National Apprenticeship Week (NAW) has been observed throughout the country since 2015. This year, the annual five-day salute takes place November 12-18 and is appropriately themed “Creating Tomorrow.”

Recognizing the workforce advancements that have followed the official designation of this time-tested model – while also giving supporters the opportunity to showcase their programs, facilities, and apprentices in our community – WIN and its partners, including community colleges, Michigan Works! agencies and workforce development organizations are looking forward to the celebration. Indeed, the time is right to reflect on the historical roots of this alternative, non-traditional career path by identifying the driving factors behind the U.S. Department of Labor’s pull for regulated apprenticeships in the post-World War II era.

Dating back to colonial times, many of those responsible for founding our nation were field apprentices before notoriety: surveyor George Washington, printer Benjamin Franklin and silversmith Paul Revere are among the namely few who come to mind. Carpenters, masons and shipwrights were also vital as they ably applied skillsets that ultimately shaped the young U.S. economy.

Aiding in the evolution of apprenticeships and accompanied by the turn of the century, the idea of regulating and legitimatizing the work of the everyday apprentice (outside of the “grit under the fingernails” stereotype) sparked Wisconsin’s call for a registered apprenticeship system, the first of its kind, in 1911. With safeguards for both the apprentice and the employer outlined in its legislation, Wisconsin became a model for the federal government, ultimately leading to a nationally-regulated system and Congress’ development, in 1937, of the registered apprenticeships we value today.

Officially the National Apprenticeship Act, this development was enacted “to promote the furtherance of labor standards of apprenticeship and bring together employers and labor for the formulation of programs of apprenticeship,” and it did. Apprenticeship programs popped up across the nation with manufacturing, construction and utility industries leading the charge. As the country was on the brink of WW ll, occupational clusters expanded to include health and safety workers – from firefighters and police to emergency medical technicians.

Today, there is as great a need as ever for Department of Labor registered apprenticeships in virtually every industry sector. And, if they do not already exist, these apprenticeships are currently being developed – with over 1,000 already in play: training future chefs, carpenters, IT professionals, law enforcement personnel, dental assistants and more for rewarding careers. That is something to celebrate.

There are a number of regional NAW events to do just that, some of which are highlighted below:

For a full list of National Apprenticeship Week events around the state of Michigan, visit: www.mitalent.org/naw and www.dol.gov/apprenticeship/naw/.

Proud supporting partners of WIN’s NAW efforts include: American Center for Mobility (ACM), Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG), Center for Regional Economic Competition (CREC), Building Initiative, Henry Ford College, Jackson College, Michigan Works! Southeast, Oakland Community College, Oakland County Michigan Works!, Southeast Michigan Community Alliance (SEMCA), Schoolcraft College, Washtenaw Community College and United Technological Solutions.

To learn more about the positive impact registered apprenticeships have on individuals, businesses and the economy, along with additional events celebrating NAW, visit: www.dol.gov/apprenticeship and miapprenticeship.org.

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