Obama administration to put $175 million toward apprenticeships

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The Obama administration is spending $175 million on apprenticeship programs across the country in an effort to grow a skilled workforce.

President Obama will announce the funding later Wednesday while visiting Macomb Community College in Warren, Mich.

In an call with reporters on Tuesday afternoon, Labor Secretary Tom Perez said 46 grantees will use the money to develop or expand apprenticeships in high-growth industries like healthcare, IT, high-tech services and advanced manufacturing.

Those grants, which are the Department of Labor’s first to focus solely on apprenticeships, are expected to create 34,000 career-training opportunities, Perez said.

International Transportation Learning Center in Silver Spring, Md. was among the grantees in the Mid-Atlantic region with a $5 million award to train signal maintainers and transit coach operators; Houston Community College was a southern grantee with a $4.2 million award to train workers in emerging healthcare and IT industries; and South Seattle College on the West Coast was awarded a $4.8 million to fund a partnership for advanced technology apprenticeships in manufacturing and marine engineering.

According to the White House, the average starting salary for the 87 percent of apprentices that gain employment is over $50,000. For every dollar spent on the programs, employers get an average $1.47 back in higher productivity, retention rates and reduced waste, the White House said.

Accompanied by second lady Jill Biden and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Obama will also announce that an independent board has been formed to push Congress to make two years of community college free for students. 

Cecilia Muñoz, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, said Biden, who teaches at Northern Virginia Community College’s Alexandria campus, will chair the newly formed College Promise Advisory Board. Former Wyoming Gov. Jim Geringer will serve as vice-chair and former Secretary of Education Martha Kanter will serve as the board’s director.

The White House will also release a report later Wednesday that it says shows growing momentum behind efforts to make at least two years of college the norm.  This year Oregon, Minnesota launched statewide programs, while communities in Pennsylvania, Illinois and Ohio found ways to make tuition free. And legislation has been introduced in 11 states to create free community college programs.

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