Jan 07, 2020

Why Apprenticeships are the Future of Our Economy

Not all successful careers start with a college degree.

I understand it may seem strange for a community college president to say that a college degree is not necessary to have a career that earns a family-sustaining wage. At HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College, this philosophy is reflected through our new purpose statement: Learning for all; learning for life. We need more education, community and government leaders to make it possible for Central Pennsylvania’s citizens to pursue alternate educational pathways before jobs leave our region.
Many Americans can’t afford and shouldn’t think that the only path to a successful career is through two- or four-year degrees. In fact, the four-year college student graduates with an average of $28,650 in debt, up from $17,350 in 2000. This statistic does not include those who accumulate debt and never earn a degree. Nationally, our manufacturers cannot afford to think this way either when they face a projection of 2.4 million unfilled jobs in manufacturing over the next decade.
National Apprenticeship Week highlights one way that individuals can pursue a successful career without a two- or four-year degree. Apprenticeships are an excellent vehicle for transferring the skills of our aging workforce to new employees.
HACC is a post-secondary educational institution that closely examines the job and industry needs of our community and develops educational pathways that meet those needs.  
In these apprenticeship programs, students work and take classes one or two nights a week at HACC. The skills they gain at the worksite, paired with the technical training they receive through HACC, allows them to “earn as they learn.” This support for our industries reaches beyond the traditional “trades.”  Many of these apprenticeships not only prepare students for the workforce, but they provide credits that can be applied to other degree programs.
HACC is also partnering with high schools in our region to offer pre-apprenticeships to high school students.
Apprenticeships are not only an investment for our College, but for our business partners, government, community and students. They take time to develop, authorize and implement. HACC knows this time investment is worth it for the future of our workforce and economy. I encourage you to take the time to discover how to pave the way for new educational pathways, like apprenticeships, for our community.
John J. “Ski” Sygielski, Ed.D., is president of HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College, and can be emailed at ski@hacc.edu or contacted on Twitter at @HACCSki.