On Friday, College of the Canyons (COC) and Goodwill Southern California celebrated their partnership to form the Strong Workforce Apprenticeship Group (SWAG).
“Powered by Doing What Matters for Jobs and the Economy the mission of SWAG is to drive the expansion of apprenticeship in the state of California and throughout the country by partnering with industry, education, workforce development and government,” said Jeffrey Forrest, Vice President of Economic Development at COC.
Through SWAG, students and employees of participating companies will receive skilled training and hands-on experience through apprenticeships at local businesses. COC will also provide specific instruction to apprentices that align with the needs of their employers.
“I cannot overstate the value of having genuine support of industry to engage in levels that are needed to truly motivate the creation of new jobs and foster economic growth,” said Tracy DiFilippis, apprenticeship coordinator for Goodwill Southern California.
Simon Lopez, vice president of Goodwill Southern California, said the partnership will allow Goodwill to provide training and employment opportunities to the communities it serves.
“We’re proving that there’s a large part of the workforce that we haven’t tapped,” Lopez said. “It allows us to make a case… to say that each of these individuals can contribute their own unique talents if we’re creative and flexible in the ways that we tap into those talents.”
SWAG will provide an innovative and strategic approach to apprenticeship by developing a pipeline of talent through experiences, working with educational partners to deliver instruction, offering strategic support and guidance to workforce development programs and creating guided pathways for employment, according to Forrest.
“Apprenticeship goes back hundreds of years… to see this happen and to see this grow, to partner with Goodwill and the community college here is great,” said Richard Robles, senior apprenticeship consultant for Los Angeles’ Division of Apprenticeship Standards (DAS).
The partnership also has a pending endorsement from the Division of Apprenticeship Standards to be a statewide sponsor for other community colleges that “do not have the capacity to develop standards for themselves.”
“Over the past few years, apprenticeship has become the highest priority for workforce development in the country,” Forrest said. “It should be, given that it has a 100-year track record as an effective of training employees and meeting the needs of the workplace.”
SWAG is also part of a larger movement to promote affordable education and increase jobs. On June 15, President Donald Trump singed an executive order to expand apprenticeship programs nationwide.
“This is the second consecutive administration to put their support behind apprenticeship,” said Harry Dispensa, an apprenticeship training representative with the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) Office of Apprenticeship. “This is a national movement, it is a way to get the country back on its feet, to get those unemployed back into jobs, get the trained workforce that the industry needs and put them all together.”
In the past nine months, programs Dispensa oversees placed 3,500 new apprentices. During the same time, 2,000 apprentices in programs he oversees completed their apprenticeships by completing the required amount of time and/or completing their demonstrated competencies and required classroom instruction.
“California alone is one of the biggest states and the largest community of indentured apprentices,” Robles said. “Within our division, our goal is to hit those nontraditional trades.”
SWAG will give these nontraditional trades a new “non-unionized, hybridized, customized” apprenticeship program that the partnership hopes will overcome barriers to workforce development.
“I think this is going to be a really important compliment to the services and advancements and create some wonderful opportunities for businesses,” said Barry Gribbons, vice chancellor of COC.
On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_