New efforts unfold to boost apprenticeship possibilities for young Texans

By Sarah Downey

Texas has more than 460,000 “disconnected” youth – those ages 16 to 24 not in school or holding a job, according to a recent report,  but there’s also renewed focus to create more apprenticeships to help young people gain the work skills they need.

With a host of socioeconomic factors that come into play, the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) announced a $9 million award from the Department of Labor to help increase paid apprenticeships in a number of skilled professions.

“Programs like this play a key role in ensuring workers will have the skills that businesses and employers need,” Aaron Demerson, TWC Commissioner Representing Employers, said in a news release. “This program can be a win-win for employers and workers when used resourcefully, creating a positive impact statewide.”

There are a lot of questions about how to improve skills and become ready for the 21st century, Erin Davis Valdez, a policy analyst with Right on Work at the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) told The Center Square.

“A job certificate or two-year degree or even an advanced apprenticeship in high school with a top company are some of the ways to get ahead,” Valdez said.

With Tesla’s recent decision to locate its next Gigafactory near Austin, it’s a key opportunity to create apprenticeships that correlate to jobs needing to be filled at the new plant, Valdez said.

“In addition to what the state can do, companies can come along and help with this workforce pipeline issue,” said Valdez, who recently co-authored the study, “Mismatch? Aligning Secondary Career and Technical Education with Regional Workforce Demand.”

One of its key recommendations is businesses and schools partnering to create paid apprenticeships for students in career and technical education (CTE) programs.

“Paid apprenticeships are a great way to get people back in the workforce, and I see a significant opportunity here for Tesla and the local technical college and especially Del Valle Independent School District,” Valdez said. “One of the reasons apprenticeships are so important is businesses can create their own talent pipeline and help students gain those skills on the job.”

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