Today marks the start of the seventh annual National Apprenticeship Week (NAW). We are thrilled that 172 proclamations have been issued and over 800 events are taking place across the country this week to celebrate the successes and value of Registered Apprenticeship for rebuilding our economy, supporting marginalized communities, and advancing racial and gender equity.
This year, we’re thrilled to recognize November 18 as National Women in Apprenticeship Day. Apprenticeship can help break down occupational segregation and improve women’s outcomes in the labor market. I’ve seen it firsthand in my own family. When my Aunt Cassandra became an electrical apprentice in 1978, she was the second woman, and second Black woman to apprentice in her IBEW local. Today, she’s a master electrician who has paved the way both for the women who followed behind her and for the women in our family. And thanks to more recent efforts to increase women’s participation in apprenticeship, the percentage of women in Registered Apprenticeship has grown over 100% between 2014 through 2020.
The Department of Labor has helped foster much of the growth in Registered Apprenticeship – for women and many others – by awarding grants to states and equity partners. For example, the department recently awarded $99 million in State Apprenticeship Expansion, Equity and Innovation Grants, and established four new Technical Assistance Centers of Excellence to provide technical and other support to apprenticeship programs, including supporting their efforts to promote diversity and inclusion.
But there is more work to be done. We need to ensure that more women like my aunt can participate in Registered Apprenticeship programs that lead to good jobs. We need to ensure that workers in historically marginalized communities have meaningful access to and support in these programs, and we need to ensure that we are growing high-quality programs that lead to good jobs for all workers who participate.
That is why the Biden-Harris administration has prioritized investing in Registered Apprenticeship as part of the Build Back Better Agenda. The proposed investments could accelerate our efforts to expand Registered Apprenticeship into new industries and new populations, while ensuring that equity and job quality are at the heart of our work.
This NAW, I encourage you to find events to attend and use the hashtag #NAW2021 to help us spread the word about NAW and the value of Registered Apprenticeship. You can also visit apprenticeship.gov/national-apprenticeship-week to register your event and find other resources to make it a success.
Angela Hanks is the acting assistant secretary of labor for Employment and Training.