The benefits of education versus experience have long been debated, but with the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Apprenticeship Program, ApprenticeshipUSA, participants can build a resume while gaining on-the-job experience. This is especially good news for veterans.

What is a Registered Apprenticeship?

A registered apprenticeship provides a win-win for employers and apprentices. Apprentices have the ability to ‘earn and learn,’ and employers have an opportunity to train up the next generation of workers at a reduced cost. DOL’s ApprenticeshipUSA program helps employers recruit, train, and retain a quality and dedicated workforce.

The idea of apprenticeship isn’t out of date. In fact, it is growing. Nationwide, as of Fiscal Year 2016, there were over 505,000 apprentice’s in the ApprenticeshipUSA program. In Fiscal Year 2016, 49,000 participants graduated from the program.

Right now, there are more than 21,000 registered apprenticeship programs across the U.S. The idea of earning and learning is growing each year.

How to Use Your GI Bill Benefits While Working as an Apprentice

The ‘earn and learn’ model is especially good news for veterans. The DOL makes it possible for veterans to use GI bill education benefits to receive a tax-free monthly stipend (paid in addition to apprentice wages) while enrolled in a registered apprenticeship program. After six months in the program, the monthly stipend is gradually decreased, as it is offset by increasing wages from the employer.

The program provides real work experience, often accompanied by classroom instruction. Apprentices draw a paycheck from the start of the program, and grow their paycheck as they acquire skills. Apprenticeships provide a pathway to start a career. Many large companies, like Ford and GE have participated in ApprenticeshipUSA.  Just this month Amazon announced it would be joining the program and offering an apprenticeship program to help train veterans in IT careers.  interest in our veterans. This follows Amazon’s announcement their goal to hire 25,000 veterans and spouses over the next five years.  

What Kind of Work Can an Apprentice Do?

Apprenticeships are generally thought of as a gateway to a blue collar career. But Amazon is opening the door for veterans to pursue IT careers with the company through ApprenticeshipUSA. Amazon is one of the first tech companies to partner with the Department of Labor program. But as tech companies fight the battle for STEM talent, apprenticeships may offer a new gateway toward building a knowledgeable workforce. Recruiting and retaining STEM talent requires an innovative approach, and Amazon has shown a willingness to not just wait for resumes but to actually create an environment that promotes learning and growth, specifically in the technology field. Perhaps other tech giants, and defense industry employers will take note and consider apprenticeships as a way to bridge the STEM gap.

According to the DOL press release, the initial group of apprentices under this agreement with Amazon will be trained for AWS’ Cloud Support Associate role. Clearly, the apprenticeship program provides a strategic solution for finding STEM talent.

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Jillian Hamilton has worked in a variety of Program Management roles for multiple Federal Government contractors. She has helped manage projects in training and IT. She received her Bachelors degree in Business with an emphasis in Marketing from Penn State University and her MBA from the University of Phoenix.