Changing Workforce / Market Research: Workforce / Workforce Development / Workforce Diversity

Perspective: Apprentice programs expand pool of engineer technicians

By Jeffrey Higgins, for Forbes

Feb 28, 2019

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One has a bachelor's degree in business administration, one has a bachelor's degree in elementary education, and one even has a B.E. in Mechanical Engineering. This is the new wave of manufacturing apprentices, specifically, Engineering Apprentices.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor there were over 17,000 active apprentices in Manufacturing, the fourth highest industry sector for apprentices, behind Construction, the Military and Public Administration. Apprentices overall have grown by 42% since 2013. In that year, there were approximately 375,000 and in 2017 there were over 500,000. Clearly there is a strong federal push to support manufacturing apprenticeship programs. The U.S Department of Labor’s American Apprenticeship Initiative awarded over $175 million to 46 public-private partnership to develop and expand apprentice programs in 2017.

Reinforcing what are likely most people’s perceptions of the manufacturing industry, the vast majority of manufacturing apprentice programs are focused on machinists and production workers. Perhaps, the best known is the Industrial Maintenance Technician, or IMT, Apprentice Program. The IMT apprenticeship not only provides a pipeline of production workers for manufacturers, it also has a proven track record of training more efficient workers. A recent study by Case Western Reserve University profiled one company’s apprentice machinists to hires off the street. The comparison indicated at least a 50% rate of return on its apprenticeship program. Apprentices in the same study were more likely to finish their work on time, and were slightly more productive, compared to machinists hired off the street.


These apprentice programs are a valuable resource for industry workers to earn a living wage. They are good for the overall economy of the country too, and should be expanded.