A new round of grant funding is available to Pennsylvania apprenticeship programs to develop diverse talent pipelines and reach underrepresented populations within the building and construction trades, according to a release issued through the Department of Labor and Industry (L&I) Secretary Jennifer Berrier. A total of $1.5 million is available, and applications are due by April 21.
“There’s no question that diversity within the workforce promotes equity among workers, innovation within business and strength in our economy overall. One extremely effective way of achieving workforce diversity, equity and inclusion is through apprenticeship programs that allow workers to earn while they learn,” Berrier said. “This grant funding is an investment in Pennsylvania’s future, which is unshakably linked to the strength of its building and construction industry.”
This grant was designed as an opportunity in anticipation of increased employment opportunities within the building and construction trades as a result of the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed into law in November 2021, according to the release.
The grants, offered through L&I’s Apprenticeship and Training Office (ATO), are part of PA Statewide Movement for Accountability, Readiness and Training (PAsmart) framework, which is designed to better align education, workforce and economic development initiatives and funding, according to the release.
“Successful applicants will design new or build upon existing apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs to reach underrepresented populations, including women, minorities, individuals with disabilities, veterans, socio-economic disadvantaged individuals, individuals who speak English as a second language, individuals who were previously incarcerated, or individuals experiencing multiple barriers to employment,” the release reads.
As a workforce development strategy, apprenticeships have a track record of success in advancing the careers of workers but are severely behind in serving under-represented populations and supporting diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), according to the release. For example, according to a recent equity snapshot from the U.S. Department of Labor focused on demographic information for 686,000 apprentices between 2010 and 2019, women accounted for 8.5 percent of all apprentices and only 3.5 percent of apprentices in construction-specific programs nationwide.
The state established the ATO in 2016 to support and expand registered apprenticeship programs statewide. The office provides outreach, education and technical support to current and prospective apprenticeship program sponsors and apprentices, according to the release. The ATO aims to expand the apprenticeship model to non-traditional occupations and ensure apprenticeship opportunities are available to under-represented communities across the commonwealth.
The ATO currently supports more than 17,000 active apprentices, nearly 5,000 new apprentices and more than 1,500 active apprenticeship programs around the commonwealth.