Skills-based Learning Key to Tomorrow’s Workforce

The US economy is changing. The manufacturing sector is growing and modernizing, creating a wealth of challenging, well-paying, highly skilled jobs for those with the skills to do them. The demise of vocational education at the high school level has bred a skills shortage in manufacturing today.

Eighty-four percent of manufacturing executives agree the nation is now facing a “skills gap” crisis. Once this country loses its ability to make and build things, we will have lost what made America great! Reshoring Initiative President, Harry Moser explained a strong skilled workforce is key to reshoring and manufacturing growth. Development of a skilled workforce begins with motivating a higher quantity and quality of recruits.

President Trump has asked companies to commit to expanding programs that educate, train, and re-skill American workers of all ages by signing the Pledge to America’s Workers. The White House workforce development program focuses on vocational job training and apprenticeships as an alternative to the almost-default setting of a four-year college degree route.

Skills-based Learning

Jobs for the Future Center for Apprenticeship and Work-Based Learning plays an important role in expanding opportunities for people who have historically been denied access to career advancement and well-paying jobs. They believe in the power of apprenticeship and work-based learning to drive the improvement of people’s lives, strengthen the American workforce, and provide American businesses with the skilled workers they need to grow and prosper.

In Virginia, New Horizons Regional Education Centers (NHREC) is the largest of the nine regional centers in the state and serves 1,500 public school students and 1,200 adult learners annually. New Horizons strives to become a state-of-the-art regional education center nationally recognized as an authority on specialized educational programs and services that support the development of a world-class workforce.

NHREC in partnership with Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS) Apprentice School has launched Youth Builders (YB) a pre-apprenticeship program designed to improve the job readiness of high school students to enter and succeed in NNS registered apprenticeship program.

Youth Builders courses are “high tech” hybrid courses that strengthen students’ readiness for the apprentice program. Additionally, they provide face-to-face mentoring and coaching. YB’s are exposed to a variety of enriching workplace learning activities. Courses are coordinated within the students’ block scheduling at New Horizons. Upon completion of the pre-apprenticeship, students apply for the paid apprenticeship.

Applicants must be 18 years old and be physically able to perform the duties of the trade experience. They must be able to obtain the proper security clearance and be a United States citizen. A high school diploma or its equivalent is required. Candidates selected for The Apprentice School have a strong math and science background and at least four of the pre-apprenticeship pre-requisite classes.

Apprenticeship at NNS is a formal training program that provides workers both theoretical and practical on-the-job training and instruction in the shipbuilding trades. Today’s apprentices are well paid men and women requiring high performance skills and abilities that will serve them throughout their shipbuilding careers.

Tomorrow’s Workforce

Contrary to what many parents believe, students who get job specific skills in high school and choose vocational careers often go on to get additional education. The modern workplace favors those with solid, transferable skills who are open to continued learning.

Skills-based learning will be what matters for the future workforce. Skills-focused vocational programs, as well as other ways to climb the skill ladder (such as apprenticeships), should be widely accessible and affordable. Glenn Marshall, Newport News Shipbuilding Career Pathways (retired), is on the Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME) Management Team initiative for leading a “Manufacturing Renaissance” and a member of the Job Creators Network. For more information contact


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