States and businesses continue to recover from the Great Recession, and they are doing so in an environment shaped by two historic shifts related to economic and workforce development. The first is the return of manufacturing jobs to the United States and the second is new technological requirements of these jobs. While job opportunities continue to grow, today’s factories require greater levels of technical knowledge from employees.
But with these new jobs come new challenges in the form of preparing a workforce equipped with the skills and competencies required for a rapidly evolving workplace—filling the critical skills gap among today’s workers as well as students preparing to enter the future workforce. In 2015, the Manufacturing Institute projected that the coming decade would produce 3.5 million manufacturing jobs but that the skills gap would result in 2 million of those jobs being very difficult for employers to fill.
State policymakers are turning to apprenticeship programs as a key strategy in addressing skills gaps and meeting the labor needs of employers….