WASHINGTON, 29th July, 2016 (WAM)–As part of the U.S. Department of Labour’s historic investments in the ApprenticeshipUSA initiative, the department’s Employment and Training Administration announced it is seeking to award three to five contracts to workforce intermediaries, including community-based organisations; labor organisations; or workforce, industry and education organisations to develop national or regional “opportunity partnerships.”

The agency expects these partnerships to increase gender, racial, ethnic and other demographic diversity and inclusion in apprenticeships, among traditionally underrepresented populations. These contracts focus specifically on increasing apprenticeship opportunities for women, people of color, and people with disabilities.

This is the fourth installment of a $90 million funding strategy to grow and diversify apprenticeship announced in April 2016. They follow an unprecedented $175 million investment in apprenticeship announced by the Obama administration in September 2015. The ApprenticeshipUSA initiative’s goal is to double the number of Registered Apprenticeship programs nationwide.

“When it comes to expanding apprenticeships to help traditionally underrepresented populations share in the growth of our economy and blaze a trail to the middle class, we cannot take our foot off the pedal,” said U.S. Secretary of Labour Thomas E. Perez. “This project and $90 million in ApprenticeshipUSA investments demonstrate our commitment to continue to diversify our pool of apprentices and break down barriers to opportunity in this proven earn-while-you-learn model.”

The contracts intend to increase the number of opportunities for underrepresented populations to successfully prepare for, enter and complete Registered Apprenticeship programmes. Specifically, contractors will: Identify, develop and disseminate tools and strategies that increase access, entry and retention in Registered Apprenticeships for underrepresented populations.

Through partnerships and direct technical assistance to Registered Apprenticeship sponsors, help apprenticeship programs develop diversity and inclusion plans and implement strategies that increase the diversity of workers entering and completing Registered Apprenticeship programs successfully.

Support the continued replication and scaling of successful diversity and inclusion practices.

Partners identified through this project will also commit to joining the growing list of ApprenticeshipUSA LEADERs working across the nation to promote, expand and diversify apprenticeships across all industries.

Research shows the value of Registered Apprenticeship programs. Today, 91 percent of apprentices remain employed after completing their programs, with average annual starting wages above $50,000.

The return on investment for employers is substantial, as studies indicate that for every dollar spent on apprenticeship, employers receive average of $1.47 return in increased productivity, reduced waste and greater front-line innovation.