Apprenticeships, Work-Based Learning Help Close the Skills Gap

By on December 5, 2018

From St. Louis Post-Dispatch:  by guest columnist, Chris Caldwell

Last week, a Wall Street Journal article highlighted that Foxconn, a Taiwanese supplier for Apple, is considering outsourcing Chinese engineers and skilled laborers for its new facility in southern Wisconsin. With state and local governments pledging nearly $4 billion in tax and performance-based incentives, Foxconn was one of the state’s largest economic development deals in 2017 with the company’s commitment to invest $10 billion, build a 22-million-square-foot facility, and hire 13,000 factory workers, engineers and business support positions. But a tight labor market in Wisconsin has made recruiting a challenge for Foxconn, which begs the question: What is the value of creating new jobs when the readiness of the existing workforce cannot meet the company’s labor demand?

Monday marked the beginning of National Apprenticeship Week, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor. For the past four years, the Department of Labor has dedicated a week for businesses, workers, educators and other community leaders to recognize the role of apprenticeships and other work-based training models in developing a highly skilled workforce for job creators in the 21st century economy.

While the Mississippi River Delta region has experienced its share of successes, the region has not seen the same level of economic activity realized across much of the country. In fact, much of the region has failed to restore pre-recession population, wage and employment levels. Unfortunately, this has been the trend for much of the South, and a disproportionate reality for Delta communities. However, opportunities exist for our region to change this trajectory.

Moving forward, Delta communities must rethink how they can better position themselves in an increasingly competitive market for capital investment. No longer are Delta states only competing with their domestic neighbors. Delta communities are now competing in a global market where the availability of a highly skilled, productive workforce is becoming as attractive to firms as low-cost land and product inputs.

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