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Reps. Spanberger and Castro Reintroduce Apprenticeship Program Initiative

February 1, 2021 by Sara Wilkerson
Rep.-elect Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., walks to a briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

WASHINGTON – As part of the first session in the 117th Congress, Reps. Abigail Spanberger, D- Va., and Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, reintroduced legislation to support youth apprenticeship programs in Central Virginia and across the country. 

The Strengthening Youth Apprenticeships Act of 2021 will direct the secretaries of Labor and Education to work together to provide guidance and best practices for youth apprenticeship programs in secondary and postsecondary education settings. 

Additionally, the legislation will direct the Departments of Labor and Education to award grants for eligible education entities to continue or expand existing youth apprenticeship programs. 

According to the text of the legislation, expansions for youth apprenticeship programs will go towards the creation of partnerships between these programs and community colleges and related industries, which will help youth apprentices earn college credits and engage with employers in their fields of study. 

“Apprenticeships are an important avenue for young people to gain new skills and get a sense of what job they may pursue, but they should also be an opportunity to gain college credit and a stepping stone to a higher-paying career,” stated Castro, who chairs the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and is a member of the House Education and Labor Committee. 

Castro continued his statement saying, “The Strengthening Our Youth Apprenticeships Act will help ensure that we build a strong infrastructure of opportunity in America for the next generation to reach their dreams. 

“The future of our economy depends on our future workforce — that’s why it’s vital for the Department of Labor and Education to work together to strengthen apprenticeships and for Congress to expand these programs to more young people.” 

“Apprenticeships are a great way for employees to learn a new skill while earning a wage, and for students, an apprenticeship can set them on the right trajectory for a good career,” said Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Ky., co-chair of the Congressional Apprenticeship Caucus and one of the original co-sponsors of the legislation when it was introduced last September. 

Guthrie continued, “Our economy is rapidly evolving, and one thing I hear from employers in the Second District is that they need skilled employees. 

“The Strengthening Our Youth Apprenticeship Act will help facilitate the creation of apprenticeship programs for younger employees and provide supportive services such as career planning. 

“I was proud to join Reps. Castro and Spanberger to introduce this bipartisan legislation to help high school and college students obtain apprenticeship opportunities.” 

“Across Virginia, local apprenticeships provide opportunities for the next generation to learn the skills necessary to secure high-skilled jobs and stay competitive in a global economy,” said Spanberger. “As we work toward our long-term economic recovery, we need to make sure high school and college students are able to access these programs. 

“Our federal agencies should work together toward achieving this goal, and our bipartisan legislation builds much-needed collaboration between the Department of Labor and the Department of Education. 

“I’d like to thank Rep. Castro and Rep. Guthrie for recognizing the importance of strengthening youth apprenticeship programs, and I look forward to building stronger, sustained relationships between community colleges, high schools, and local businesses,” stated Spanberger.

The use of apprenticeship programs has been on the rise in recent years as businesses, schools and states seek new ways to guide high school and college-age students to middle-class jobs.

According to the Department of Labor, “[There were] 3,133 new apprenticeship programs established nationwide in 2019, representing a 128% growth from 2009 levels.” 

The Strengthening Youth Apprenticeships Act of 2021 has been endorsed by a number of organizations, including New America, Advance Career Technical Education, and the Association for Career and Technical Education. 

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