Economy Politics

Kentucky’s labor secretary is trying to get more employers to offer apprenticeship programs that provide employment and on-the-job training for new workers entering an industry.

There are currently about 1,100 employers that have registered apprenticeship programs in Kentucky, employing about 3,000 people.

Derrick Ramsey, secretary of the Labor Cabinet, said apprenticeship programs will help train Kentucky’s workforce and attract new businesses.

“’If we do not have skilled workers, I don’t think businesses are going to move here,” Ramsey said. “And by the way, in most cases with businesses, they don’t want to come here and then train that worker, they want to have them trained before they come here.”

Apprenticeship programs combine on-the-job training with formal instruction and usually last four years. Employers work with the Labor Cabinet to design the training program and sign a contract with each apprentice — the contract is registered with the state and the U.S. Department of Labor.

Apprentices have to receive a minimum of 144 hours of related classroom instruction each year they participate.

“What this will allow is for not only young people, but people who want to get back into the workplace to come in there and earn not only a good salary, but rather than have a job, have a career,” Ramsey said.

Ramsey said apprenticeships could help train a workforce to rebuild the state and nation’s crumbling infrastructure.

The legislature set aside $500,000 for the apprenticeship program in this year’s state budget. The program also received a $200,000 federal grant to promote the program and encourage more diversity in apprenticeships.

Those who want to participate in apprenticeship programs have to have a high school diploma or GED.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.