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Mining Apprenticeship Opportunities to Bridge the Refrigeration Gap

RajanRajendran2 Rajan Rajendran | V.P., System Innovation Center and Sustainability

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

This blog summarizes an article from our most recent E360 Outlook, entitled Apprenticeship Opportunities.” Click here to read it in its entirety.

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Through our E360 Outlook magazines and E360 Forums, my colleague Bob Labbett and I have talked at length about the growing technician shortage facing our industry; it’s something we refer to as the refrigeration gap. After facilitating many conversations with stakeholders to address this challenge, we have formed the basis of a solution that focuses on four key areas: awareness, recruitment, training and retention. But we are always looking for creative ways to achieve these objectives.

A recent announcement by the Trump administration about doubling the budget of the federal apprenticeship program piqued our curiosity. Not only were we largely unaware of the program, we were intrigued about its potential for addressing our industry’s technician shortage. To learn more, we put two summer interns at The Helix to work on researching feasibility of the program. Here’s what we dug up.

Relatively low HVACR participation

After poring through the Department of Labor’s (DOL) apprenticeship section of their website, one of the first things we discovered was that HVACR participation in the program was quite low. While there were more than 200,000 active participants in Registered Apprenticeship (RA) programs in 2016, HVACR only accounted for 3,135 of these. Electricians topped this list with 41,489 active apprentices. We quickly realized that our industry has a runway of opportunity that is largely untapped.

Federally funded, state operated

Another key fact we uncovered about the program is that “the Office of Apprenticeship (OA) works in conjunction with independent State Apprenticeship Agencies (SAAs) to administer the program nationally.” What this means is that RA programs are enacted at the state level after meeting the DOL’s apprenticeship standards. What’s more, an individual employer, group of employers, or an industry association can also sponsor an RA program, sometimes in partnership with a labor organization.

Technical schools and colleges play a vital role

The OA is also focused on helping educators build college-to-career pipelines in a variety of occupations through the Registered Apprenticeship College Consortium (RACC). RACC is a national network of post-secondary institutions, employers, unions and associations working to create opportunities for apprentice graduates who may want to further enhance their skills by completing an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.

Even high school-level vocational institutions and career centers can get involved in pre-apprenticeship programs to help students explore career opportunities and become an apprentice while they’re still in high school.

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