WASHINGTON — Oct. 2, 2020 — a national nonprofit driving transformation in the American workforce and education systems, today announced that its Center for Apprenticeship & Work-Based Learning has received $12 million in new funding from the U.S. Department of Labor to expand apprenticeship in advanced manufacturing, with a specific goal of increasing the number of women and people of color in the industry’s workforce.

The DOL contract, which will last up to five years, calls for JFF to engage in efforts that result in at least 750 enrollments in Registered Apprenticeship programs in manufacturing per year, with 50 percent of the new apprentices coming from populations that are currently underrepresented in manufacturing.

JFF believes it is particularly important to expand the gender, racial, and ethnic diversity of the manufacturing workforce at this point in time because the economic disruption brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in steep job losses that have disproportionately affected women and people of color. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that more than 11.5 million women lost jobs between February and May 2020, compared with 9 million men.

“The current economic crisis is exacerbating longstanding equity gaps in the workforce,” said Eric Seleznow, senior advisor at JFF’s Center for Apprenticeship & Work-Based Learning. “Registered apprenticeships have the potential to dramatically expand pathways to economic mobility for high-skill, technical roles in industries like advanced manufacturing that will play a vital role in the economic recovery to come.”

As manufacturers work to both rebuild in the wake of the current economic downturn and replace retiring baby boomers, women represent the largest pool of untapped manufacturing talent in the United States: according to BLS, women make up more than 50 percent of the overall U.S. workforce but hold only 29 percent of manufacturing jobs—a figure that has essentially gone unchanged since the 1970s.

Employers and policymakers are looking beyond standard hiring practices and are instead turning to apprenticeships and other forms of work-based learning (WBL) to prepare the next generation of workers. These career preparation programs provide crucial pathways to stable and high-paying positions in advanced manufacturing and other in-demand industries.

“The current economic downturn has taken a steep toll on women in the workforce, who are not only more likely to work industries that are struggling the most, but are also facing extraordinary child and family caregiving responsibilities,” said Lauren Sugerman, director of the National Center for Women’s Equity in Apprenticeship and Employment at Chicago Women in Trades. “This new initiative will bring a vital infusion of funding, research, and national expertise as we deploy registered apprenticeships to create a more diverse talent pipeline and equip workers with the real-world training to access—and ultimately thrive—in stable manufacturing career paths.”

The contract will support JFF’s efforts to reach out to prospective apprenticeship partners such as manufacturers, trade associations, and other organizations; provide them with technical and financial assistance; direct them through the process of designing, registering, and launching new apprenticeship programs; and offer guidance on ensuring equitable and inclusive workplaces. As it engages in those activities, JFF will draw on its more than 35 years of experience in workforce planning and development and tap into its deep national networks to route funding to organizations with proven quality and impact at the local and regional level.

To design and scale the apprenticeship programs, JFF has assembled a national network of corporate, nonprofit, and association partners that includes Women in Manufacturing, Chicago Women in Trades, Elgin Community College, the Manufacturers Association of Central New York, the Institute for American Apprenticeships, the Michigan Workforce Development Institute, and Penn Foster.

Launched in 2017, the Center for Apprenticeship & Work-Based Learning provides resources, training, network and advisory services to employers, policymakers, and workforce development organizations as part of JFF’s strategic offerings. For more information, visit JFF’s Center for Apprenticeship & Work-Based Learning.

About JFF:

JFF is a national nonprofit working to drive transformation in the American workforce and education systems. For more than 35 years, JFF has led the way in designing innovative and scalable solutions that create access to economic advancement for all. Join us as we build a future that works. www.jff.org