When it comes to connecting job seekers to paid apprenticeships, no one does it better than Maricopa County, according to a new report.
The U.S. Department of Labor ranks Maricopa County No. 1 in the United States for the number of people placed into registered apprenticeship programs supported by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, according to a press release.
Even better, Maricopa County’s highly successful Registered Apprenticeship program is looking to expand into new sectors, providing even more opportunities to residents at a time when demand for new careers is high.
“The Registered Apprenticeship program gives hundreds of people each year a pathway out of poverty, putting them to work right away in industries where they can build a career,” said Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Clint Hickman, District 4. “I applaud the Workforce Development Board for authorizing and overseeing a program that is truly a model for the rest of the country, and I look forward to the planned expansion of the program to serve people in our criminal justice system.”
Up to this point, the RA program has focused primarily on building partnerships within the construction industry including electrical and sheet metal work, pipefitting, welding, plumbing, and heat and A/C installation and repair.
However, Maricopa County is now actively looking to partner with the Department of Economic Security and companies in healthcare, insurance, and information technology to expand the types of apprenticeships offered. In addition, there are plans to provide apprenticeship opportunities to justice-involved individuals who often face significant challenges upon release in getting and maintaining employment.
“The Workforce Development Board aims to be innovative in its approach to connecting the people of Maricopa County with good jobs. We know that’s more important than ever,” said Matt McGuire, chairman of the Maricopa Workforce Development Board. “The Apprenticeship Program is one of many tools we support to move job seekers forward, and it has definitely proven to be among the most effective at getting people into a career that supports a higher quality of life.”
In program year 2019, the employment rate for apprenticeship participants was 93.6%, higher than any other type of job training offered by the county, and significantly higher than the 62.2% employment rate for basic career services, the press release stated.
“For many job seekers, an apprenticeship is more practical than other options such as continuing education because employers are paying them to learn a skill,” said Shawn Hutchinson, a workforce representative on the Maricopa County Workforce Development Board. “For employers, it’s an opportunity to develop young talent and build relationships that can benefit both the apprentice and the company for years to come.”
“This program was exactly what I needed after I was laid off from a job in the construction industry due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Matthew Conroy, a recent program participant. “Getting paid as an electrician apprentice allows me to grow in an industry I’m passionate about, and the paycheck is helping me pay for schooling at the Phoenix Electrical JATC.”
In program year 2019, Maricopa County had 660 apprentice participants. A little more than halfway through program year 2020, there have been 472.
There are two ways a person might get placed into an apprenticeship through Maricopa County’s program. They could come looking for a job through “Arizona @ Work, Maricopa County” and choose that option after talking with a case worker.
They could also be referred for an apprenticeship by an employer. Depending on their need, Maricopa County might cover part or all the cost of the first year of an apprenticeship. Typically, by the time an apprentice enters year two, they are able to cover the cost on their own. With these registered apprenticeships, both wages and skill levels typically increase as they progress.
“Strong, established partnerships are what make this program work so well,” said Deb Furlong, Workforce Program Manager with Maricopa County Human Services Department. “We have some amazing employers who work collaboratively with us to find the right people and help them succeed. And we have county staff who are dedicated specifically to this program. All of that creates an environment where our apprentices are invested in their employers and the employers are invested in their apprentices. It’s really quite unique.”