Regional View: Apprenticeships change lives — especially for women

From the column: "We are determined to break down barriers women face as they seek to enter these programs and then thrive once they do. It’s never been more important for us to advance training, employment, and return-to-work opportunities that connect women — in particular, women of color — to higher-paying jobs."

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Across the U.S., our nation marked National Apprenticeship Week Nov. 14-20 to remind workers and employers of the importance and value of registered apprenticeships.

The gold standard for workforce training and development, registered apprenticeships are a time-honored, earn-as-you-learn model that opens pathways to good-paying careers that provide better benefits and greater job security. About 93% of workers who complete registered apprenticeships gain employment and earn an annual average starting wage of $77,000.

However, women — especially women of color — remain severely underrepresented in these programs. Women make up only 14% of active apprenticeships , according to Apprenticeship USA. In the male-dominated trades, less than 4% of apprentices are women. Discrimination, systemic barriers, and other longstanding obstacles have historically prevented women from access to these opportunities and have left them segregated to those low-paying jobs traditionally held by women.

The time for change is now, and work is underway to dismantle the discriminatory barriers. Now is also the perfect time to ensure equity is woven into job creation throughout the country.

The administration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris is making unprecedented investments in our nation’s infrastructure to create good union jobs with family-sustaining wages and opportunities for women across the nation. We know that apprenticeships can be an avenue to getting women into these opportunities. To date, $2.6 billion in funding has been announced for 140 projects in Minnesota, according to the White House.


The U.S. Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau supports efforts to recruit, train, and retain more women in quality pre-apprenticeship and registered apprenticeship programs, as well as nontraditional occupations through the Women in Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Occupations grant program. Through this innovative program, award recipients provide support services and job-skills training to prepare women for promising careers while simultaneously helping employers create a work culture where women can succeed.

In October, the Women’s Bureau marked its 30th year and celebrated three decades of collaborative efforts with community organizations to get more women into pre-apprenticeships and registered apprenticeships and to connect them with stable, good-paying jobs. In its 30 years, the Women’s Bureau has worked closely with its grant recipients and learned a lot about what needs to be done to recruit and retain women in apprenticeships. One of the important lessons we’ve learned is that women participate and succeed in job-training programs at higher rates when they receive supportive services like child care.

Apprenticeships change lives. We are determined to break down barriers women face as they seek to enter these programs and then thrive once they do. It’s never been more important for us to advance training, employment, and return-to-work opportunities that connect women — in particular, women of color — to higher-paying jobs so that our nation’s economic recovery brings with it greater equity.

Gina Rodriguez is regional administrator of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau in Chicago.

Gina Rodriguez.jpg
Gina Rodriguez

Duluth Workforce Development and SOAR Career Solutions, along with other community and union partners, offer no-cost apprenticeship-prep training through Building Strong Communities. The program is currently accepting applications for its January cohort, the city of Duluth announced in a statement last week as part of its promotion of National Apprenticeship Week.

Through Building Strong Communities, individuals over 18 can learn valuable skills and gain exposure to the construction field and other trades, including ironworker and operating engineer.

To learn more about apprenticeships in the building trades, visit

To learn more about Duluth Workforce Development, visit


To apply for Building Strong Communities, contact SOAR Career Solutions at (218) 722- 3126.

“An apprenticeship is a perfect way to earn a living while learning a trade,” Elena Foshay, director of Workforce Development for the city, said in the statement. “That’s why Workforce Development loves to celebrate National Apprenticeship Week every year. It’s just a great way to let residents know that we’re here to help them start their career in fields that really matter in the Northland.”

— News Tribune Opinion page

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