What is Apprenticeship?

A Clear, Cost-free Path to a Great Future.

Words are funny. Most often we understand their meaning, but we might be challenged to specifically define them. We’ve all heard the word “apprenticeship,” but other than what we’ve seen about so-called apprentices on reality TV, few folks have any idea of what an actual apprenticeship entails or the benefits it provides.

Defining Apprenticeships as an ‘Earn and Learn’ Training Program

Most of us would define “apprenticeship” as a program that gives specific and skilled training in a particular craft, trade, or profession. Apprenticeships work through a mix of on-the-job training and classroom instruction, meaning that while on the job, the apprentices earn while they learn.

The length of the apprenticeship depends on many factors, but many skilled worker programs can require four to five years of training. In many of these programs, students who finish can reach what is called the “journeyman” level, which informs employers that the apprentice has mastered their training. Achieving journeyman status is a sure ticket to a solid middle-class income for life.

With college costs rising and showing no signs of stopping, it is a shame that more people are unaware of the apprenticeship training path. Apprenticeship training is free and studies have found that the lifetime incomes of those who complete the apprentice training programs compare favorably to those of four-year college graduates. And unlike many who graduate with a college degree, apprentices complete their training without the crushing burden of student debt. “Apprenticeship” can be defined as a clear, cost-free path to a great future.

How can we ensure that free apprenticeship training is an option for all West Virginians?

First, we must understand how apprenticeship training programs are funded. In some industries, these programs are supported by a combination of contributions from industry workers and funds provided by the companies for which they work. These are typically private funds. These types of programs do not usually receive grants from the government. Think of Apprentice Training Programs as an economic development tool that trains our young people, at little to no cost to the apprentice or the taxpayer, and ultimately produces wage-earning, tax-paying, skilled West Virginia workers.

Dig a little deeper and you’ll find that both the workers and the companies that privately support apprentice training programs depend on a law called “Prevailing Wage” in order to be competitive against low-road, less qualified companies that do not invest in their workforce.

Prevailing Wage Law Provides for Fair Wages

Simply put, a Prevailing Wage Law makes certain that workers are paid a fair wage, based on a regional survey of rates for their specific level of skill and experience. It’s what you and I might call the “going rate.”

A Prevailing Wage Law also ensures that local companies have a fair shot when bidding on tax-funded projects. Without the safeguards that a prevailing wage provides, many in-state projects would go to fly-by-night out-of-state companies that exploit low-wage imported workers, and many in-state companies would then have less to invest in training and the hiring of West Virginians.

Support Apprenticeships in West Virginia

So it doesn’t make sense that in 2016, the West Virginia Legislature repealed our Prevailing Wage Law.  This repeal was not only a disaster for working families but for the workers and companies that privately support apprentice training programs. Apprentice training programs are now in danger.  It doesn’t have to be that way. We can restore West Virginia’s Prevailing Wage law with your help.

Webster’s dictionary defines success as “something that turns out well.” I think you’ll agree that ensuring the future of our young people through apprenticeship training would indeed be considered a success in anybody’s book.

If you value apprenticeship training and wish for it to continue in the Mountain State, it’s time to speak up! Support apprenticeship training in West Virginia by supporting the restoration of our Prevailing Wage Law.  Please sign our petition and help Restore Prevailing Wage to restore West Virginia!    

Find your West Virginia representatives here and reach out to them to let them know you would like them to reinstate the Prevailing Wage Law.

You can help restore the Prevailing Wage Law by signing the petition. Sign your name, share with your friends, and let’s restore the Prevailing Wage Law to help keep our young people here and move West Virginia forward.