Pennsylvania is Investing $11 Million for Workforce Development Through Apprenticeship Programs Across the State


  • $11 million from the PAsmart initiative is being allocated to 26 apprenticeship programs that will serve all 67 counties in Pennsylvania.
  • Black Americans are underrepresented in registered apprenticeship programs making up 10 percent of registered apprentices, but 12.3 percent of the national labor force. 
  • In Philadelphia, $400,000 of the PAsmart grant was allocated to Drexel University for a cybersecurity apprenticeship program focused on information technology.

Pennsylvania is investing $11 million in workforce development across the state to increase the talent pipeline for occupations in agriculture, manufacturing, healthcare, IT, education and more. The money is being allocated to 26 apprenticeship programs through PAsmart, an initiative to increase pathways to STEM careers for Pennsylvania students and workers. 

“Throughout history, apprenticeships have been a vital and necessary part of career education in certain fields,” Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf said in a press release. “By expanding these important programs to more occupations and industries, we are offering Pennsylvania workers opportunities to train for family-sustaining jobs while helping businesses develop a workforce that will strengthen our economy and our communities.” 

Nearly nine out of 10 apprentices find employment after completing an apprenticeship, career pathways that integrate classroom instruction with real-world application. The average starting salary is more than $60,000 per year, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Apprenticeships play an important role in Pennsylvania’s local economy — in 2018 the state established a goal to increase the number of registered apprentices in the commonwealth to 30,000 by 2025. There are currently 16,654 active apprentices in Pennsylvania. 

“Today, workers have the power to demand better pay, better benefits and safer working conditions. Pennsylvania’s economic recovery from the pandemic depends significantly on what we do now to respond to those demands,” Jennifer Berrier, Pennsylvania’s Department of Labor & Industry Secretary, said in a press release.  

The state’s unemployment rate has steadily decreased, reaching four percent as of October. The apprenticeship programs that have received funding through the PAsmart grants aim to increase employment across the state as well as upskill workers.

Several of the grants were allocated to increase the number of workers of color in registered apprenticeships. The federal government didn’t set minimum nondiscrimination apprenticeship standards until the 1960s, according to the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a think tank focused on the socioeconomic status and civic engagement of African Americans. 

Still, Black Americans are still underrepresented in registered apprenticeship programs. They make up 10 percent of registered apprentices, but 12.3 percent of the national labor force. 

Apprenticeships are critical in preparing people for the future of work. McKinsey estimates that 42 percent of the Black labor force currently hold jobs that will be disrupted by 2030 — many of these workers will need education or training to develop new skills.

The largest share of the PAsmart grant funding has gone to non-profit organizations, followed by universities and colleges. The remainder of the apprenticeship grants went to companies and businesses, professional associations, unions and ambassador networks.

The two largest grants of $650,000 went to the non-profit Central Pennsylvania Workforce Development Corporation to develop apprenticeship programs in the water operator and solar photovoltaic installer fields and to BAYADA Home Health Care to expand and build its nursing workforce apprenticeships. The former will enroll 25 apprentices from three or more counties across Central Pennsylvania while the latter is a statewide initiative.

Among funding to universities and colleges, the Pennsylvania College of Technology in central PA received the largest grant of $649,960. The college is using the money to grow new and existing apprenticeships, as well as pre-apprenticeship programs, to diversify the healthcare and advanced manufacturing sectors. The project will serve about 200 apprentices and 88 pre-apprentices with participation from 12 employers and five school districts.

All of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties will be served by one or more of the programs that have received funding, with a large share of funding going to Philadelphia — $2,796,341 in grants having been allocated to universities and non-profit organizations based in and around Philadelphia.

Drexel University was awarded $400,000 in September to fund two new programs over two years focused on careers as cybersecurity support technicians and certified medical assistants.

The programs, focused on traditionally underserved adult learners, will enable 12 people to complete an apprenticeship while earning credits from Drexel University that can be applied in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in its Computing Security and Technology (CST) program.

“Cybersecurity and health care are two in-demand and growing industries where you can begin a pathway to family-sustaining, stable careers with or without a college degree. Employers benefit from apprenticeships by gaining access to a pool of talent to fill immediate openings,” Kena Sears-Brown, director of continuing professional education & workforce initiatives at Drexel’s Goodwin College, said in a press release.

The university decided to focus on cybersecurity because information technology is Drexel’s “bread and butter,” Jessica Randall, apprenticeship program manager at Goodwin College, told The Plug. There are expected to be 3.5 million job openings in cybersecurity by 2025.

Twelve apprentices will be placed in cyber jobs and Drexel will be paying for them to take three courses at the College of Computing & Informatics and to receive CompTIA stackable certifications. One of the employer partners of the cybersecurity apprenticeship is Infradapt, an IT services and consulting company.

The first cohort begins in January and will support recent high school graduates as well as adults looking to upskill within IT. 

“It’s really an opportunity for people who are already in those entry-level roles who could really benefit from this model and are underrepresented in the field or people who are interested in IT but face barriers, especially prohibitive college costs,” Randall said. 

Over 200 people have shown interest during the recruitment process, a majority of whom are Philadelphia residents. 

“Interest is just absolutely overwhelming and really speaks to the urgency and the need for these kinds of programs,” Randall said, noting that the $400,000 grant cannot meet the interest level for the cybersecurity apprenticeship program in Philadelphia.

Alesia Bani

Alesia Bani is a writer and journalist from Philadelphia and The Plug’s Innovation Reporter covering the Black tech ecosystem in Philadelphia. She previously worked for the Institutional Diversity office at her alma mater Temple University and has a background in reporting on identity, DEI and local government.