Removing the barriers for female apprentices


Across the U.S., our nation marks National Apprenticeship Week from Nov. 14 through 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 percent of workers who complete Registered Apprenticeships gain employment and earn an annual average starting wage of $77,000.

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However, women and especially women of color remain severely underrepresented in these programs; in fact, women make up only 14 percent of active apprenticeships. In the male-dominated trades, less than 4 percent of apprentices are women. Discrimination, systemic barriers and other long-standing obstacles have historically prevented women from access to these opportunities, and left them segregated in 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 Biden-Harris administration is making unprecedented investments in our nation’s infrastructure that will 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.

As the department’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 to create a work culture where women can succeed.

Rosie Turnipseed is one beneficiary of the WANTO program. A recent graduate of the Service Excellence Respect Jobs for Progress of the Texas Gulf Coast Inc.’s pre-apprenticeship program — one of many supported by our grants — Rosie was able to regain her financial footing during a difficult time. “Before I joined the program, my water and electricity were getting ready to get cut off. The pre-apprenticeship program provided me with short-term financial assistance and training that helped me to get a job to make ends meet … I’m going to continue to the apprenticeship because I want to be able to create generational wealth for my kids and positively help my community.”

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, and in particular, women of color, to higher-paying jobs, so that our nation’s economic recovery brings with it greater equity.

Charmaine Davis has been working to support the advancement of women in the workplace with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau since 2016. She is the Regional Administrator for Region 4 and the Acting Regional Administrator for Regions 5 and 6. She chairs the Women’s Bureau’s child care team and is currently leading the effort to develop a female recruitment training for Job Corps.

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Removing the barriers for female apprentices

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