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As One Chapter Ends, Another Begins for JFF's Center for Apprenticeship & Work-Based Learning

June 29, 2022

Contributors
Eric M. Seleznow
Practices & Centers Topics

Friends and colleagues,

After five years at Jobs for the Future (JFF) driving the launch and growth of JFF’s Center for Apprenticeship & Work-Based Learning and a career that has spanned some 45 years, I am departing JFF on June 30. These last couple of years of a pandemic lifestyle have certainly helped me clarify my future priorities to slow down and spend more time with family.

When I left my position as deputy assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration, I was led to JFF by a shared vision with CEO Maria Flynn and Vice President Kathy Mannes of the power of apprenticeship to further economic advancement for all.

We launched the Center in June of 2017. It was a big bet for JFF—but after the Obama administration’s focus on transforming the Registered Apprenticeship system, we knew there was a critical need to provide information, resources, and technical assistance to grow the use of apprenticeships as an effective workforce and talent development solution.

While I’ve spent the better part of my career working across workforce development systems, it wasn’t until 2013 that I really saw the value of apprenticeships to improve workers’ lives and strengthen businesses. Building on the work of labor and the building trades for the past 100 years, apprenticeships are a supply and demand win-win that made more sense to me as an integrated solution than the traditional, linear workforce models that I worked on for the previous 30 years. And apprenticeship works in just about any industry.

We base our work at the Center on several tenets:

  • Showcasing the Promise of Apprenticeship: Apprenticeship and other high-quality work-based learning models are effective ways to prepare and move people into high-paying jobs and career paths while also helping employers meet their needs for skilled workers. Registered Apprenticeships provide the greatest value due to their quality control, rigor, and use of national standards.
  • Demonstrating the Value of “Grow Your Own” Workforce: Employers struggle to find workers with the required skills, a challenge even more pressing with the rapid changes in technology and ways of doing work. Young people and adult workers cannot always afford the costs or crushing debt of postsecondary education to advance their careers. Employers often find that graduates still lack the required skills for their roles. Apprenticeship as a “grow-your-own” strategy combines education and work to serve the employer and the worker.
  • Challenging the Myths and Misperceptions of Modern Apprenticeships: Modern apprenticeships are not your grandfather’s apprenticeship program. While they were created on the shoulders of labor and the building trades, they also have wide application in almost any industry or occupation. Long-held misperceptions about modern apprenticeships must be clarified for employers, educators, workers, and communities.

Over the last five years, the growing team at the Center has worked to address these tenets, and I could not be prouder of what the team has accomplished in developing high-quality apprenticeships in manufacturing, IT, human resources, health care, and other industries. We have created opportunities for adults as well as in-school and out-of-school youth through the team’s technical assistance, coaching, and resources in the field. Over the last five years, we have:

  • Provided apprenticeship opportunities to more than 7,355 individuals, including Brandi Dunham, the first apprentice in the Industrial Manufacturing Technician Registered Apprenticeship program.
  • Engaged with more than 2,400 employers and worked closely with 897 of them to start or grow Registered Apprenticeship programs, including working with a range of small, medium, and large employers, to establish both local and national programs.
  • Created 172 tools, webinars, blogs, and other resources for the field, including JFF’s Framework for a High-Quality Pre-Apprenticeship Program that provides six characteristics for an effective and equitable program.
  • Launched the National Innovation Hub on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in Registered Apprenticeship, a Department of Labor Center of Excellence that expands access to and equitable outcomes within Registered Apprenticeship opportunities.

What’s Ahead

The impact of the Center will only grow from here under the excellent stewardship of Interim Director Deborah Kobes. The Center will continue to focus on the critical value of apprenticeship and work-based learning, with special attention on areas such as diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility; pre-apprenticeship; youth apprenticeship; and continued expansion into growing industries such as IT.

As for me, I expect to stay connected in the field. I hope you’ll continue to stay in touch on LinkedIn.

It has been an absolute pleasure and honor to do this work. I want to be sure to acknowledge the support and efforts from the team at the Department of Labor and the Office of Apprenticeship, JFF leadership, and the incredible staff at the Center. Most of all, many thanks to you for your interest, engagement, and support for strengthening apprenticeships nationwide in pursuit of equitable economic advancement. The lives we’ve changed, the mindsets we’ve shifted, and the partnerships we’ve created would not have been possible without all of you. Thank you.

Onward!

Eric Seleznow

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