A large hurdle in matching residents with jobs in advanced energy is a lack of prior experience and skills. This problem could be solved by creating more apprenticeships and certification programs that are tailored to the needs of companies within each region. State leaders could achieve this by leveraging the state’s technical college system and private-sector partnerships.
South Carolina’s Apprenticeship Carolina™ system offers a simple model for improving apprenticeship opportunities statewide. The state’s successful Apprenticeship Carolina™ system offers employers a modest $1,000 state tax credit per apprentice per year. Additionally, the state engages businesses through training consultants, who work with employers to guide them through the process to establish a qualifying apprenticeship program. The program has served over 13,000 apprentices and averages more than 120 new apprentices per month. Registered apprenticeship programs have a significant return on investment: over the span of an apprentice’s career, the tax revenues are more than $27 per $1 invested and career earnings are on average $240,037 higher among those who completed their program compared to similar nonparticipants.
A state could also tie economic development incentives to the provision of apprenticeships. Companies that train more workers could receive more incentives. This would give hard-working residents the opportunity to gain skills in the solar and smart building industries, while still bringing home a paycheck. To bypass potential congressional inaction, a state’s General Assembly could enact an apprenticeship program similar to South Carolina’s. State leaders could also consider visiting South Carolina to learn more about their successful apprenticeship programs. Encouraging the establishment of apprenticeships in the advanced energy industry would meet employer demand for trained workers and prepare citizens for good-paying, skilled jobs.
Success Story: Southwire’s “12 for Life” program
Southwire Company, a leading manufacturer of wire and cable used in the distribution of electricity in Georgia, combines hands-on training with traditional classroom learning for at-risk students. Since 2007, the company’s “12 for Life” initiative has offered students paid, four-hour shifts at the company’s manufacturing plant in Carrollton. While they work, students learn a variety of manufacturing skills, including machine operation and quality assurance. For the remainder of the day, students earn credits toward their high school diploma in a traditional classroom setting. The program boasts over 1,100 graduates, and nearly half of those students continued on to a post-secondary education. Another 20 percent obtained jobs with Southwire or a related employer.