Testimony: Support HB16-1287 for Apprenticeship Study

Frank Waterous, senior policy analyst at the Bell Policy Center, testifies to the House Business Affairs and Labor Committee.

The Bell Policy Center supports House Bill 16-1287, which requires the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment to study the barriers to Colorado businesses’ use of pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs and make a report and recommendations based on the study.

Pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs are key components in state and local workforce systems’ career pathway strategies for both youth and adults. They also represent a productivity-enhancing approach to reducing inequality and expanding opportunity for underrepresented populations.

The research clearly indicates “expanding apprenticeship is a potential game-changer for improving the lives of millions of Americans and for increasing the efficiency of government dollars spent on developing the workforce.” For example, one broad study of apprenticeship in 10 states documented significant earnings gains associated with apprenticeship training of about $6,000 to $6,500 per year per participant. Other research found “after accounting for total training costs, apprenticeship produces a positive earnings gain of $269,000 over a lifetime.” For employers, pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs help businesses develop highly-skilled employees and have been shown to reduce turnover rates, increase productivity and lower the cost of recruitment.

The Working Poor Families Project correctly cautions, however, that while “apprenticeship holds the promise of providing good jobs and a path to self-sufficiency… unless states take bold actions to expand apprenticeship opportunities and strengthen entry and completion, low-skilled, low-wage adults may be left behind.” It also notes that the biggest challenge in expanding the role of apprenticeships in workforce development is increasing the number of employers and industry sectors that offer apprenticeships. The study required by HB 16-1287 will be the first critical step toward overcoming this challenge and achieving this goal.

The bottom line is this: Expanding pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship opportunities is a win-win proposition for Colorado. As the U.S. Department of Labor emphasizes, such a strategy “helps businesses thrive by building a high-skilled, highly-productive workforce, and it helps job seekers access and maintain stable careers with good wages.”

Given the evidence, we strongly believe that studying, understanding and addressing the barriers to expanding pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs in Colorado is vital for our state’s career pathway, skills training and workforce development efforts. As such, the Bell Policy Center supports HB 16-1287 and urges your support, as well.

We thank Representatives Rosenthal and Wilson for bringing this bill to you today and thank the committee for the opportunity to share our thoughts with you.