Column: The New Yavapai Economy: The Revival of Apprenticeship
The American economy has muscled through various changes over the past 50 years, one of which has been a shift in workforce development approaches reflecting the change in what and how the U.S. economy produces. The fields that are in-demand for education have changed and become increasingly interdisciplinary, while employers have strayed from in-house training given the opportunity cost of having to foster the development of a proficient employee. That said, education and training that is discrete from on-the-job experience does not satisfy the needs of the labor force or employers. Today's economic challenges require that people work through their training or degree programs, and employers need entry level employees that have a strong foundation in their field while being able to up-skill quickly.
The revival of apprenticeship programs may be the answer to these needs. This approach provides the opportunity for the workforce to obtain some foundational education, then quickly move on to a full time position while continuing their education. At the federal level, there is increasing awareness that public assistance is needed to get the ball rolling on apprenticeship programs again. In many European countries, apprenticeship programs are fully subsidized, creating a symbiotic relationship between employers, workforce development institutions, and government subsidies that result in a steady pipeline of laborers across industry sectors. U.S. Department of Labor programs at the local level are assisting in these type of subsidies by providing subsidized education through partnerships with community colleges and assistance with entry level wages while employees work and fulfill educational needs.
In Yavapai County, occupations such as computer programing and analysts, business management, and drafting and engineering technicians and assemblers have experienced an increase in demand over the years. Much of the labor for the professional, scientific, and technical sector is imported into the area while the majority of supply chain needs for the manufacturing sector are also imported into the region. The professional, scientific, and technical industry and manufacturing sectors comprise 8% of the county's gross regional product and 8.6% of the total labor force. Occupations in these sectors provide some of the highest wages in the county, averaging $41,843 per year for IT and business management and $53,651 per year for manufacturing. Both of these sectors are showing momentum for growth in output and concomitant labor needs in Yavapai County.
Focusing on developing apprenticeship programs for these sectors will inevitably create a stronger pipeline for industry labor needs resulting in potential for expansion and business attraction, while also creating opportunity for youth to remain in the county. Industry return on investment for apprenticeship programs include increased output, reduction of waste, and reduced turn-over rates, all of which impact the bottom line for both industry and community resiliency.
**The Yavapai College Regional Economic Development Center provides analysis and services that facilitate economic development throughout Yavapai County and build wealth in our local communities.