Expanding Rural Apprenticeship in Maine

January 20, 2023
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The Council of State Governments Center of Innovation recently responded to a research request on rural apprenticeship programs in Maine. The findings of this request are available below.

Registered Apprenticeship is an industry-driven, high-quality career pathway proven to benefit both workers and employers. Registered Apprenticeship programs consist of supervised, on-the-job training related technical instruction to supplement experiential learning and the acquisition of an industry-recognized credential. Apprenticeship programs can increase worker retention rates for employers and overall lifetime earnings for apprentices. However, these programs are often inaccessible to learners in rural communities.

Long distances between home and work, a lack of transportation options and inadequate internet access to connect to related instruction are just a few factors that can limit the expansion of Registered Apprenticeship programs in rural communities. Additionally, smaller employers operating in rural communities may lack the capacity to manage the administrative responsibilities of apprenticeship programs. As a result, rural learners often miss out on the benefits of apprenticeship like mentorship and a progressive wage scale. In return, employers lose the opportunity to train and retain their own workforce.

Rural learners often miss out on the benefits of apprenticeship

Maine has made strides in promoting apprenticeship as a workforce development tool in rural communities. Based on the U.S. Census Bureau definitions of urban and rural areas, Registered Apprenticeship programs exist in 10 of 11 of Maine’s rural counties. Across these 10 counties, there are 33 sponsors of 64 Registered Apprenticeship programs. The rural county with the most apprenticeships is Sagadahoc, with seven sponsors of 27 apprenticeship programs. The rural county with the second-highest number of apprenticeships is Somerset with 12.

 

CountyIndustries with ApprenticeshipsApprenticeship SponsorsUnique Occupations ApprenticedTotal Programs
AroostookEducation, Funeral Services, Construction, Energy657
FranklinEnergy111
HancockFuneral Services313
KnoxFuneral Services, Health Care222
LincolnConstruction, Funeral Services, Health Care, Hospitality444
OxfordConstruction, Hospitality333
PiscataquisN/AN/AN/AN/A
SagadahocConstruction, Energy, Financial Services, Funeral Services, Upholstery72527
SomersetConstruction, Financial Services, Telecommunications31112
WaldoFuneral Services, Ocularisty222
WashingtonEducation, Funeral Services, Manufacturing233

Apprenticeships by Industry in Rural Maine

Employers have apprenticed a variety of occupations in Maine’s rural counties, ranging from more traditional fields like construction and manufacturing to financial services and education. By far, the most apprenticed industry in rural Maine is construction, including carpenters, electricians, plumbers, iron workers, highway laborers, pipe fitters, HVAC technicians and welders. In addition to construction, the health care, funeral services and hospitality sectors represent the most-apprenticed industries. Employers in several of Maine’s rural counties have developed apprenticeship programs in high-demand fields, like health care, telecommunications and energy. For example, Knox and Lincoln counties boast apprenticeships for occupations such as certified nursing assistants, medical assistants and psychiatric nurses.

 

New Investments in Rural Apprenticeship

Maine continues to make new investments and develop new partnerships to promote apprenticeship in rural areas. Recently, CSG and the Urban Institute received funding from Ascendium Education Group to expand civic sector apprenticeship programs targeting low-income rural learners in Maine. CSG and the Urban Institute will work with the Maine Apprenticeship Program and Bureau of Human Resources to create up to four new apprenticeship programs to fill critical workforce needs in state and local government in rural communities. To address barriers often faced by rural learners, the initiative will provide wraparound support for apprentices and work to ensure that related instruction is accessible both in-person and virtually. The project will work with state and local agencies, which operate in many rural areas, to help them register as apprenticeship sponsors. Through these efforts, CSG and the Urban Institute will develop a proof of concept that can be shared with other states to replicate this process.

Additionally, Educate Maine was named one of five lead partners in a national initiative through Jobs for the Future to expand Registered Apprenticeship programs in the state. Educate Maine champions career readiness by increasing the educational attainment of people in Maine, enabling all students to succeed in a postsecondary education and in the workplace. The organization’s Maine Career Catalyst program has received funding to help school-age young people access pathways to high-quality apprenticeships. Many of these efforts will be focused on six rural counties, especially Hancock and Washington.

 

Conclusion

With 61% of all Maine residents living in rural areas, Registered Apprenticeship programs can be a powerful tool to retain workers in these communities and build pathways toward high-quality jobs. From more traditional industries, like construction and plumbing, to education and energy, apprenticeship is on the rise in rural Maine. By facilitating partnerships in the public and private sector, Maine is finding new ways to promote and fund these programs to guarantee their sustainability in the future.

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