Dear Friends,

The economic shock of the coronavirus is undeniable, including in Texas. Last Friday, the Texas Workforce Commission reported that half a million Texans filed unemployment claims in 18 days because of the pandemic. However, actions we take now can keep our economy strong and people working once restrictions are lifted. When our economy soon restarts from the coronavirus, employers will look again to quickly hire skilled workers. Apprenticeship programs can help fill that gap, and keep Texans—and Americans—working into the future.

Apprenticeships are employment programs in which people receive salaries and gain skills in a chosen career track, allowing them to earn as they learn and enter the workforce without student loan debt. President Trump’s Administration has already taken strong steps to expand apprenticeships, and across the country over half a million people have entered apprenticeship programs registered with the Department of Labor since 2017. Across Texas, we have over 500 such apprenticeship programs, with over 19,700 apprentices who will make family-sustaining salaries once they start working: $74,000 a year, on average!

Texas 12 businesses, large and small, as well as our local schools, see the sense in providing more people with paid on-the-job training and no-debt career paths. Lockheed Martin offers an apprenticeship program for young professionals, and Bell Flight’s Student Training Employment Program (STEP) selects students from the Fort Worth and Arlington Independent School Districts to step into the future and work part-time during the school year at Bell, learning the engineering behind achieving vertical flight. Some past STEP participants now work full-time at Bell.

Azle Independent School District has even made career programs part of its curriculum, through the school district’s Career and Technical Education and Health Science Technology programs. Through these programs, students can be workforce ready for fields including industrial refrigeration, drone piloting, or to work as a nursing assistant or pharmacy technician, in some cases straight out of high school! 10 Azle ISD students are set to take this year’s Certified Assistant Refrigeration Operator certification test, and 30 more students are planning to take the Federal Aviation Agency’s drone pilot test, which will help their careers soar with a new technology that is transforming industries from defense to agriculture. Meanwhile, around 20 former and current Azle ISD students are putting to use the handwashing and hygiene techniques they perfected in the classroom as they care for their community at local nursing homes and hospitals during this time of sickness.

According to the Texas Workforce Commission, there are almost 2,000 active apprentices in Tarrant County alone, learning trades including plumbing, computer support, nursing, and even fire-fighting! Many may still think of apprenticeships as training for more traditional fields like carpentry or construction, but now, apprenticeships can also create a workforce for the digital era… and invigorate some of our country’s industries that are suffering. Texans have always pulled together through tough times, and now is no different. Texas 12’s frontier spirit and talented workers keep our community ready to continue its development, and apprenticeships can help prepare our workforce for well-paying jobs powering today’s economy— and tomorrow’s.


Kay Granger