Using Civic Sector Apprenticeship to Meet Federal Workforce Needs
By Dina Klimkina, Program Director, The Council of State Governments and Josh Christianson, Program Lead, Accessibility and Inclusion, Wheelhouse Group
Governments at all levels are struggling to attract and retain workers. A 2021 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on Science and Technology: Strengthening and Sustaining the Federal Science and Technology Workforce found that this is especially evident in technology fields, whose workforce needs to be highly qualified and agile. Solving these workforce challenges is essential for the government to meet both their mission and federal mandates around customer experience and cybersecurity.
Much of the solution lies in strengthening the pipeline of trained workers, and one effective tool is apprenticeship. “Earning while Learning” provides the public and private sectors with mechanisms for combining on-the-job training and classroom instruction to help the apprentice master the skills necessary to succeed. Employees benefit because apprenticeships lead to high-quality and well-paying careers and certified portable credentials. Organizations and communities benefit because apprenticeships are efficient paths to rebuilding and upskilling their workforce, engaging new business sectors and helping economies recover. Apprenticeship gives employers the ability to set up tailored training opportunities, which is good for business. Further, organizations are likely to retain the individuals they train – apprentices have a 92 percent retention rate after completion of a program.
The Council of State Governments (CSG) has been supporting states in their efforts to utilize civic sector apprenticeships across state and local levels. Over the past year, CSG has worked with California, Colorado, Idaho, Maine, Michigan and Virginia in the development of their civic sector apprenticeship programs around transportation, apprenticeship administration, health care and beyond. And there are several other examples of state apprenticeship programs. Tennessee is the first state in the country to sponsor Teacher Occupation Apprenticeship programs between school districts and Educator Preparation Programs (EPPs). This program will further the state’s (and nation’s) efforts to extend the teacher pipeline and address teacher shortages.
At the federal level, the U.S. Department of Labor has implemented apprenticeship programs within the federal pay system to both upskill the current workforce and accelerate the productivity of new hires. At the federal level, apprenticeship opportunities range from firefighting to facilities management, mine safety, industrial machinery mechanics and beyond.
Civic sector apprentices can be scaled and expanded to help address today’s talent gap while also building a skilled workforce of the future. This will require a mindset shift. Public awareness about the power and potential of apprenticeship needs to be raised and job seekers and policymakers, government supervisors and human resources need to be educated in order to implement these innovative programs.
To learn more about the potential of apprenticeship programs, read the CSG reports: The Future of the Workforce: Approaches to Increasing Access & Inclusion and The Future of Apprenticeship: Inclusion, Expansion, and the Post-Pandemic World of Work. More information also can be found at State Exchange on Employment & Disability (SEED) and the Partnership on Inclusive Apprenticeship.