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IPC welcomes the U.S. House vote today on H.R. 447, the National Apprenticeship Act of 2021. This bill would invest nearly $3.5 billion over five years to scale-up apprenticeship opportunities, streamline access to apprenticeships for workers and employers, and expand apprenticeships into new, in-demand industry sectors and occupations.
One of the most difficult challenges facing the U.S. electronics manufacturing industry is a chronic shortage of adequately skilled workers. More than two-thirds of IPC’s U.S. members report that an inability to find and retain skilled workers is limiting their growth and competitiveness. The pressure is on our industry to tap the institutional and technical knowledge of an aging workforce to train the next generation of workers, even as younger workers also learn the skills required for the factories of the future. IPC believes that the private sector is best suited to identify the occupational skills that workers need to succeed, which is why IPC works with industry to develop and provide industry training and credentialing programs.
IPC agrees with workforce experts that well-crafted apprenticeship programs offer individuals, especially those not planning to pursue higher education, an effective means of gaining the skills and mentoring necessary to thrive in certain fields, including electronics. However, the United States has failed to cultivate an environment in which apprenticeship programs flourish, except in a few industries. The current structure of the existing apprenticeship program in the United States is onerous for employers, which is a key reason why apprenticeships are not as popular in the U.S. as they are in Europe. H.R. 447 would streamline some reporting requirements, improve the registration system, and allow various program costs, including new machinery and equipment, to be included as allowable costs for all grant dollars. For these reasons, IPC supports H.R. 447, and we welcome the opportunity to work with policy makers to improve and expand industry-led education and training programs.