Apprenticeships and the Workforce Options for Women

By: Reagan Williams

(Source: Pexels, photo by Andre Moure)


“For too long, women have faced barriers to gaining entry into apprenticeships and nontraditional careers, said U.S. Secretary of Labor, Marty J. Walsh.


As the skills gap continues in the U.S., government, businesses, and individuals are working towards solutions to address the gap and provide opportunities for people; especially for women. One option is apprenticeships; they have been a viable option for worker education since the middle ages. Apprenticeships are invaluable for an individual and play an essential role in response to changing economies and social norms. An apprenticeship allows for individuals to help Americans maintain competitiveness in the global workforce and the local economy they represent.


Specifically, in the U.S., apprenticeships have demonstrated the wins for employers and individuals with a return of $1.47 on every dollar spent for companies. Today, there are over 24,000 registered apprenticeships in the U.S. stemming from the National Apprenticeship Act passed in 1937. Typically, people associate apprenticeships with trades and manufacturing. This is the only space where they can be found. However, there has been an emerging shift to focus on nontraditional careers and women becoming apprentices.

(Source: Pexels, photo by Christina Morillo)


Recently, the Women’s Bureau administered the Women in Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Occupations (WANTO) grant. The award winners were announced by the U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty J. Walsh. The 3.3 million grant is intended to recruit, train and retain more women in pre-apprenticeship and registered apprenticeship programs, focusing on nontraditional occupations. The WANTO grant recipients will contribute to the expansion of pathways for women to enter and become leaders across all industries. There were five community-based organizations selected to increase women’s employment in nontraditional occupations throughout the country: Moore Community House, Inc., Per Scholas, Inc., SER Jobs for Progress of the Texas Gulf Coast, Inc., Tradeswomen Inc., and Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership, Inc.


Organizations receiving this funding will assist the local and national economy by addressing the skills gap issue while creating employment pipelines. Skills training will be available for pre-apprenticeships and nontraditional skills in order to work alongside employers and unions for women to be successful in those careers. Moreover, the facilitation of support groups and networks will garner support for women to improve employee retention, under the guise of the Women’s Bureau.

(Source: Pexels)


In 1920, The Women’s Bureau was established by the U.S. Department of Labor for welfare promotion of wage-earning women, enhancing their working conditions and advancing women’s opportunities for profitable employment. The Women’s Bureau is the only federal agency that has been mandated to affirm the needs of wage-earning women in the public policy process. According to the Women’s Bureau, women make up almost 47% of the U.S. labor workforce. The bureau is associated with being innovative and continued their momentum under the direction of Wendy Choo-Huun, Director of the Women’s Bureau. WANTO grant recipients will be able to demonstrate the benefits and need for women to participate in apprenticeships. According to a case study conducted in 2019, by the Women’s Bureau, women represented only 12% of individuals participating in an apprenticeship. Their commitment is to support the economic security of women and their families. Therefore, pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs are essential components of the strategy to support women and equality in the workforce.


Unfortunately, women in 2021 will have to work well into the year to earn what men did in 2020 for wages. If you live in Mississippi, Washington D.C., California, Texas or Wisconsin, search for offerings from the WANTO grant within your community to embark on a career through an apprenticeship. Besides skills, women can gain confidence, excel, and work in fields traditionally associated with men. Finally, another alternative is to connect with your respective state’s apprenticeship office to see what opportunities are available for you that will impact you and change your career trajectory.





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