U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-12th District) highlighted the House Democrats’ new economic agenda called “A Better Deal: Better Jobs, Better Wages, Better Future” during an Aug. 16 visit to the UAW-Ford Technical Training Center in Lincoln Park.
The agenda of “A Better Deal” has three main goals – raising wages and creating more good-paying jobs, lowering the cost of living for families, and building an economy that gives working Americans tools to succeed in a changed marketplace.
Key components of the third goal include giving tax incentives to companies that focus on workforce development and apprentice programs.
Dingell came to the training center to discuss all the center’s programs, with an emphasis on the UAW-Ford Joint Apprentice Program, which gives employees about four years of classes and a paid apprenticeship leading to becoming skilled in trades ranging from welding to tool and die making.
Formerly, the only way to get into apprenticeship programs was to have high seniority in the workplace and to take a standardized test. Ford and the auto union recently came to an agreement to let employees at all levels take three college courses, online or at a traditional community college, and then apply for the wait list for an apprenticeship.
Rocky Dialcovo, assistant director of skilled trades for the Joint Apprentice Program, said that getting more employees into the apprenticeship program was critical since the average age of journey man skilled workers was 56, and approximately 1,200 apprentices need to be trained before those older skilled employees retire.
“We needed to tap into that knowledge at Ford before these journeyman employees retire,” Dialcovo said.
Dingell asked if the new system for recruiting apprentices had affected diversity. Center officials said that with the old test, about 25 percent of apprentices were of minority status (including women), while under the new system, that percentage rose to about 55 percent.
Dingell took a tour of the technical center and talked to a classroom of employees taking apprenticeship courses, as well as to high school students who come for special training at the center.
The training center also has programs in place for assisting veterans and for “reskilling” workers, such as teaching someone who used to work in a tool and die factory how to be a metal model maker. The technical training center will give veterans interested in an apprenticeship program credit for as much as 3,000 hours based on related training they may have received in the military.
Dingell said she wanted to tour the training center since their programs serve as “a model for how apprenticeship programs can grow opportunity for American workers and close the jobs and skills gap that workers and businesses are facing.”
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