Effort underway to encourage Round Rock apprenticeship opportunities

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In an effort to enhance the Round Rock workforce, the Round Rock Chamber conducted research that produced a series of recommendations to improve apprenticeships.

Although the city is experiencing record unemployment levels, the chamber identified a shortage in skilled trade professionals.

Amy Mizcles, vice president of community enhancement for the chamber, said as the Round Rock Chamber has looked to address what it identified as a critical shortage in skilled trade professionals, it is working on creating a talent pipeline.

“One of the things we had not yet looked at were apprenticeships,” Mizcles said. “Over the last year, we researched what is happening in our local area but also what is happening across the nation with apprenticeships.”

The chamber released its report titled “Apprenticeships: A Gateway to a Robust Regional Workforce” in December, which presents three recommendations: develop a regional apprenticeship coalition, develop a series of registered apprenticeships and develop a series of nonregistered apprenticeships.

To form the report, the chamber held a series of meetings and interviews with stakeholders ranging from leaders from both for-profit and nonprofit organizations, local school districts’ career and technical education programs, and community and technical colleges.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, apprenticeships are defined as paid positions which provide on-the-job training resulting in industry-recognized credentials. Several occupations—such as plumbers or electricians—require apprenticeships.

Registered apprenticeships are administered though the Department of Labor and typically take three to five years to complete. These apprenticeships come with benefits such as nationally recognized certification and funding. However, Mizcles said several community stakeholders the chamber spoke to expressed the registered apprenticeship program was difficult and required a high level of reporting that deterred them from implementing the program.

Mizcles said the chamber started to look for alternatives and discovered nonregistered apprenticeships.

“There are many companies out there that hire people that may have the aptitude or work ethic, and they train them in very specialized fields,” Mizcles said. She cited the example of Ultra Electronics, a company which creates nuclear sensors. Due to the specialized nature of the company, employees need to be specifically trained to perform their jobs.

“They hire, have you work and see how you’re working, and then they pair you with longer-tenured staff, and that team trains together,” Mizcles said. “It is something that we need to celebrate, and it’s happening regionwide.”

Mizcles said the chamber hopes to establish a regional apprenticeship coalition with the goal of developing programs in the area.

“This effort is not going to be easy, fast or inexpensive,” Mizcles said. “But from our perspective, it’s necessary because we need to be deliberate in our efforts to develop that ample talent pipeline, and that’s what all of this is about.”

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