Why ex-offenders should consider entering an apprenticeship program

apprenticeshipApprenticeships not only tend to be ex-offender friendly offering second chance employment, but they are also an excellent way to learn a set of skills that are in high demand among employers. And if you’re seriously determined to find a job, entering an apprenticeship may be the way to go.

In fact, there are statistics to back that up. Human resource consulting firm ManpowerGroup, in its 2018 Talent Shortage Survey, found that of more than 42,000 employers surveyed worldwide, 40 percent are finding difficulty filling job openings, the highest number since 2007. And for the fifth straight year, the hardest jobs to fill are skilled trades.

Top 10 jobs in terms of talent shortage
  1. Skilled trades
  2. IT staff
  3. Sales representatives
  4. Engineers
  5. Technicians
  6. Drivers
  7. Accounting and finance staff
  8. Management executives
  9. Machine operators
  10. Office staff

This fact, if nothing else, should encourage those leaving jail or prison to consider a career in the trades. But there are also other reasons, most notably that:

  • 91% of those completing an apprenticeship program gain employment.
  • The average starting wage for trade union jobs is above $60,000 per year.

Apprenticeship programs can appeal to those with a variety of skills and interests and be for jobs with titles that range from boilermaker or carpenter to meat cutter or sheet metal worker.

Although the programs may last from one to six years, the average length of an apprenticeship is four years. They combine on-the-job training with classroom instruction, during which participants may learn math, drafting, how to read blueprints and other skills necessary to perform a particular job. Apprentices are paid a wage – which usually starts at 35 percent to 50 percent of a full-time union job for that industry – and receive regular pay increases during the duration of the program.

How to find an apprenticeship program

There are hundreds of apprenticeship programs across the U.S., and to find out more about those in your area, you can visit your local American Job Center or search the Internet using search words like “union apprenticeship directory.”

The results that will come up may include directories of specific trade union groups, as well as directories put together by state government agencies. Here are a few examples:

California Department of Industrial Relations Division of Apprenticeship Standards

Indiana union construction industry

Maryland Apprenticeship and Training Program

Massachusetts building trade

Minnesota building and construction apprenticeship programs

Ohio Department of Job and Family Services apprenticeship directory

Washington Building Trades apprenticeship programs

The U.S. Department of Labor maintains a list of links to all state and U.S. territory programs.

Once you decide what type of trade you might be interested in, contact your local American Job Center or a specific union office or training center in your area for the details on what to do next. Taking that first step may lead you to a new career – and a new life beyond bars.


Use My Next Move to explore a multitude of job opportunities

My Next MoveGetting out of prison or jail and need help deciding what to do work wise?

We highly recommend checking out My Next Move as a first step in the process. This free easy-to-use tool will allow you to explore more than 900 occupations to see which of them might be right for you.

And it includes information about the knowledge, skills and abilities required for these jobs; how much they pay, potential apprenticeships and job openings, among other things. There’s just about everything you might need to know to decide whether you might want to explore any of them further.

Although it was specially designed for students, young people and those new to the workforce, it could be very useful to anyone, including those in reentry who are also exploring a new possibly uncharted life. The site is part of O*NET, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.

Here’s how it works:

Go to the My Next Move website and try out the three options.

Tool No. 1. A tool to search careers with key words. These key words can be either the name of a type of worker or something you like to do. Take for example, carpenter, build houses.

Those key words bring up about 20 different types of jobs, including construction carpenters, construction laborers, drywall and ceiling tile installers, and roofers.

Click on one of those jobs, and you’ll find a vast amount of information, including what they do, the knowledge and skills required and even the type of personality that makes a person good at this type of work. It also includes education required, average salary paid and link where you can search for jobs by state and find out how to apply for them. (Some can be applied for online and others require showing up in person.)

Tool No. 2. A tool to browse careers by industry. This is just another way to find the same information about jobs as with Tool No. 1, but you will get a broader sense of what types of jobs are available in a particular industry. For example, using construction as an example brings up more than 40 types of construction jobs and another nearly 40 jobs that may work in construction.

Tool No. 3. This tool is an interest profiler, or “tell us what you like to do,” and by answering a set of 60 questions can help you pinpoint what type of work might be appropriate for you. When answering the questions, you’re not supposed to think about whether you have the education to do a particular job or how much money you might make. Just whether you would like to do the things it asks. After you complete the questionnaire you will discover your interests and what type of work might require these interests.

Once you determine what type of job you might be interested in, the site also includes links to sections on jobs that are:

  • likely to have apprenticeship programs.
  • ranked by the amount of preparation and training involved,
  • expected to grow rapidly, have large numbers of openings or are new opportunities
  • in the green economy

Spending time on the My Next Move website will help you gain insight into new possibilities that you may have not considered. My Next Move, along with some of the resources on the Jails to Jobs website, will give you a head start as you begin to search for employment. We hope they will help you in your efforts.


New guide helps manufacturers create apprenticeship programs

ApprenticeshipProgramManualCoverU.S. Manufacturers are facing a serious shortage of skilled workers. Many applicants just don’t seem to have the skills necessary to produce the increasingly sophisticated products that American factories are creating.

While some companies are teaming up with community colleges and other partners to create training and apprenticeship programs, there seems to be far too few of them

Three major corporations – Dow, Alcoa and Siemens – have decided to help solve the problem by joining forces to create a coalition to build regional apprenticeship models that bring together employers and community colleges.

And together with The Manufacturing Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, they’ve also published the Employer’s Playbook for Building an Apprenticeship Program to teach other companies how to do it themselves.

This 115-page book serves as a how-to guide that companies of any size can use to help build a workforce-ready talent pipeline in communities across the country.

Readers are taken step by step through the process of establishing an apprenticeship program. The nine chapters cover everything from workforce planning and establishing public-private partnerships to selecting apprenticeship program participants and transitioning apprentices into permanent employment.

The book includes an extensive array of templates, tools, project plans and worksheets and tons of tips and advice that are useful to any company that might be interested in creating an apprenticeship program of their own. There are also links to a wide range of other resources that include everything from the Department of Labor and the National Governor’s Association to the National Association of Workforce Boards.

The playbook will also serve as an important resource for manufacturers and their partners who are interested in the U.S. Department of Labor’s American Apprenticeship Grants competition that is now open for applications.

These grants – up to $100 million in total – will be given to public-private partnerships that will include a combination of manufacturers as well as community colleges, nonprofits, unions and training organizations. The grants are being financed by the fees that employers pay to hire foreign workers to come work in the U.S. under the H-1B nonimmigrant visa program.

The goals of the grant competition are to:

  • Expand apprenticeship programs into high growth industries and occupations, especially those for which foreign workers on H-1B visas are hired.
  • Use apprenticeships to create new career pathways.
  • Offer more apprenticeship opportunities to job seekers and workers, especially those from groups that are underrepresented in traditional apprenticeship programs.

And with all the new training programs that will result from these grants, more Americans – including hopefully some who were formerly incarcerated – will be claiming some of those jobs currently being held by H-1B workers. At least that appears to be the goal.