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As we dive into National Apprenticeship Week (Nov. 15-21), I can’t help but think that while the time-tested model of apprenticeship truly does work for every occupation, the average American typically sees apprenticeship through a narrow lens.

If someone starts listing apprenticeable occupations and makes it past plumbers, carpenters and electricians, there ought to be a prize because most don’t — even educated people who own companies.

As I was thinking about ways to pull off those dusty blinders and bust apprenticeship myths, I started thinking of “Portlandia.” I know. Weird, right? Hang with me. It was season two of that comedy TV show that actors Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein played a homesteading couple obsessed with home preservation. With a gung-ho motto of “We Can Pickle That,” they pickled anything that didn’t move, from eggs to Band-Aids.

While I don’t recommend pickling Band-Aids, I do think I believe I may adopt and put our own twist on their can-do motto, “We Can Apprentice That,” because we can. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Apprenticeship has registered more than 1,000 different occupations. Companies with active apprenticeships include Amazon, Google, Intuit, Dow, Tesla, Ford, Nestle, Microsoft, Siemans, The Hartford, Alcoa and Pepperidge Farm. All of these successful companies know to succeed these days, they must be active talent producers and not passive talent consumers.

In just a couple years of doing apprenticeship expansion work for the West Virginia Department of Economic Development in concert with the Office of Apprenticeship, we are seeing apprenticeships being built out in all kinds of industries, from aerospace and IT to brewing, solar, meat cutting and, in the works, one for wind turbine technicians. Yes, in West Virginia.

Just this week, we are announcing West Virginia’s first registered apprenticeship for advanced home health aides through Home Helpers in Martinsburg that will provide an occupational on-ramp for youth creating a clear line of sight to a career in healthcare. While they are getting paid, these apprentices will be providing much-needed assistance for our aging population to remain independent at home. That is a win-win-win.

Doing apprenticeship expansion work, we continue to be inspired by other state expansion programs such as South Carolina’s Apprenticeship Carolina, which is actively creating apprenticeships for every community and technical college program it can. That kind of coordinated statewide effort is something all states should be shooting for. Apprenticeships keep more in-state talent home as college students working in their field (earning while they’re learning) are apt to stay if connected to a career-building job.

I am witness to the efficiency and sensibility of the apprenticeship model that puts classroom knowledge into action on a real paid job with a mentor modeling best occupational practices. As a young journalist, I completed five paid newspaper work experiences while in university.

As we spread the gospel about this new day for apprenticeships in the U.S., we are trying to bust myths. Apprenticeships do not have to be union-based; apprenticeships are for businesses of any size; apprenticeship helps recruit and retain workers; apprenticeship registration has been streamlined; and companies in West Virginia can utilize any number of training providers to create their program.

And, perhaps most importantly, we are letting companies know that no matter what the occupation, “We can apprentice that.”

Dave Lavender is one of the coordinators for the AIM WV (Apprenticeship in Motion) program. His email address is David.L.Lavender@wv.gov. To learn more about AIM WV, go to https://westvirginia.gov/incentives-and-programs/apprenticeship-in-motion/.

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