Staffing firms to boost apprenticeship model

A new regulation aims to remove barriers to apprenticeship.

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The lack of skilled trades people is at a crisis point for many manufacturers, which are left scrambling to find qualified workers to fill positions. A new directive from the Department of Labor that allows staffing firms to operate registered apprenticeship programs could help close the skills gap.

In July, the Department of Labor withdrew its ban on staffing firms participating in apprenticeships, saying its previous restriction could be seen as “overbroad in scope.”

Ken Madden, owner of Madden Industrial Craftsmen, a staffing firm for the skilled trades, lobbied for a change to the regulation as a member of the Oregon Workforce Investment Board, a governor-appointed committee tasked with improving workforce quality.

Madden, who plans to launch his own apprenticeship, said he has always wanted to get involved in training people as part of a registered program.

“It is a way for staffing firms to evolve and be part of problem solving,” said Madden. “This is my attempt to train people up.”

Madden sees serious shortages in the supply of skilled workers for a range of trades, especially for people who are skilled in machine maintenance. “It is the number one position we get calls for,” he said.


As an apprenticeship sponsor, staffing firms can work with employers to identify candidates for on-the-job training. They can also take over administrative tasks, such as verifying hours and tracking classroom and online lessons.

Apprenticeships in the U.S. have declined over the past decade as young people have pursued four-year bachelor’s degrees instead. The result is a severe shortage of young skilled workers.

By 2020, the U.S. will be short five million workers with the necessary technical certificates and credentials to succeed in high-growth, high-demand industries, according to the Georgetown University Center on Education and Workforce.

The Trump Administration has pushed for boosting the role of apprenticeships. In June, Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta directed the department’s agencies to remove regulatory and administrative barriers to apprenticeship growth.