FOLEY - The Gateway Initiative has worked in the last few years to bring registered apprenticeships for Tourism and Hospitality to the state. During the latest South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce …
FOLEY - The Gateway Initiative has worked in the last few years to bring registered apprenticeships for Tourism and Hospitality to the state. During the latest South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce Leadership Series, Alabama Department of Apprenticeship Director Josh Laney spoke on what exactly an apprenticeship is, how it works, and what it means for employers and employees.
The biggest question from many employers is what can a registered apprenticeship do to help their company? According to Laney, a lot.
“Registered apprenticeships always start with an employer need,” he said. “Employers have a need for people right now. We’re sitting on about four percent unemployment rates in the State of Alabama. That’s great. We have the lowest unemployment in the whole southeast. Except HR managers know what that also translates to. Very tight labor market means that everybody who’s looking for a job, has a job. What that doesn’t mean is that everybody’s looking for a job.”
Every apprenticeship begins with an assessment for the business that asks what does the employer need. Do they need to find the employees to work, train the employees, or retain them, or a combination of the three?
“Some employers have a great recruitment process but need help with the training and retention,” he said. “Some may have a homegrown training model but need help putting people into it or need help keeping people on after the training. Different employers have different levels of need, but the development of a registered apprenticeship can assist with recruiting, training, and retaining.”
When it comes to recruiting, Laney said the first step is to attract a more diverse talent pool. While that certainly means hiring a diversity of ethnicities and genders, he said it also goes deeper than that. It includes asking where someone is in life. According to Laney, a large number of people in the state are underemployed, meaning they have a job but not a career. These employees could be recruited and then trained for a career, Laney says.
“We need people who are stuck in that $8 an hour job and give them an opportunity for an upward career path,” he said. “But one thing they can’t do at $8 or $9 an hour is quit that job and go to school full time, so they think they can’t find a career. They’ve got to feed their family. So they’re stuck in this in between spot. A registered apprenticeship offers a vehicle to move out of that spot.”
“We always start with the employer when it comes to training programs,” Laney said. “We don’t prepackage a training program and then come to the employer and say, ‘look what we built for you.’ We sit down with the employers and find out the skillsets they need, we’ll talk about the process.”
Laney says he and his team are not subject matters in each individual business. The businesses themselves know what they need and what sort of training should be implemented for their employees. While Laney’s team helps build training programs for apprenticeships, the employers are always part of the process. He says he and his team can build the training programs based off the needs of individual businesses. They will then help organize the needs into a deliverable training model and work with the businesses to get the models implemented.
“Nationally the Department of Labor tells us that upwards of 90 percent of people who complete a registered apprenticeship program are still at that company with whom they completed the program two years later,” Laney said. “No other training program has that kind of retention. Worse than not being able to find employees would be finding the employee, hiring them, investing a bunch of time, effort and energy into training them to give them the skillset you need, and they don’t come back. That’s worse than not having the position filled because you dumped all the funds, the investment, and they left.”
Laney said registered apprenticeship programs develop employee loyalty, as the businesses are showing their investment in employees by offering quality training programs and the potential for advancement.
Talent pipeline management
According to Laney, a company can create the finest training program, but without putting people through it then it won’t benefit anyone.
“If we don’t put any people into it on this end, then people aren’t going to come out on that end,” Laney said. “There has to be a point where we’ve established this as a training program, now how do we turn that over to the community and to the employers so that they can recruit people? We call that process talent pipeline management.”
The Department of Apprenticeships is constantly on the lookout for multiple types of individuals to place into training programs and put on the way towards a career. This includes students out of high school, people with disabilities, single parents, incumbent workers, veterans, diverse individuals, and people who are currently unemployed.
“Registered apprenticeships represent the employer’s investment in their people,” said Laney. “That’s why the recruitment works. That’s why retention works. That’s why that employee loyalty gets built. That’s because the employer is investing in their people. You don’t get a return on an investment you don’t make.”
Most employers are unsure about putting large amounts of money into a new program, especially if the budget is tight. That’s why the Department of Apprenticeship also focuses on ways to offset the cost of beginning an apprenticeship in a business.
“We recognize that employers aren’t looking to just lay out all kinds of money for this stuff just for the fun of it, so what we do is something we call coupon hunting,” Laney said. “After you have defined the training program all the way and we have built out what you need competency-wise, what you need coursework-wise, then we assess that and say here’s how much it would cost to do that … Now how can we help you offset that?”
Laney says some rebates come to the employer directly in the form of wage offsets and wage readjustments. Currently, via the Apprenticeship Expansion Grant, employers are reimbursed for 50 percent of the first 480 hours of wages for an apprentice.
“So you hire them and you get them at half price essentially for 12 weeks, and that’s an incentive to you to take a chance on doing an apprenticeship to offset the time, effort and energy,” Laney said.
So what happens once the employees have been recruited, the training program implemented, and the apprentices at work? Laney says his team will still be there to help.
“We don’t just disappear,” he said. “Our goal at that point is to provide technical assistance to the employers, to the training providers, to the sponsors. When you’re doing any stages of an apprenticeship we’re here to support that, that’s what the Department of Apprenticeship is built for.”
There are already numerous registered apprenticeships in the State of Alabama, for multiple career paths. Some registered apprenticeships include building maintenance, chef, hospitality associate, and building inspector. Other potential apprenticeships are already in the pipeline.
Many local businesses have added apprenticeships, some just starting out, some reaching the handoff. According to testimonies, many plan to continue maintaining apprenticeships for some time.
“Ed and now Tyler [with Gateway Initiative] are great to work with,” said Director of Human Resources at Spectrum Resort Peggy Wilson. “Don’t miss an opportunity. We are just dipping our feet into the water getting started with this program, but we started with our incumbent team members and they are so excited. So get involved. Ed and Tyler have been great and they will help you get the training program and get through all the paperwork. We’re all here working together. So just take advantage of it. Our team is really excited.”
For more information, check out https://gatewayinitiative.com/ and www.southbaldwinchamber.com.