Labor, Vo-Tech Leaders Clash on Apprenticeship

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Sneed said the public "is going to pay for the apprenticeship, whereas the contractors that employ us are paying for this same apprenticeship right now. If there's no money for us, why is there money for a new program?

"No one has said our program is outdated or is not a good program anymore _ they just want to start a new one."

Monteith and Sneed said they also were worried that graduates of vo-tech apprenticeship programs would flood a supposed job market that was not really out there.

"My concern is, they're going to put people in these industries or trades and overtrain, so there are more people than there are jobs available," Monteith said. "It will dilute the wage base at the same time they are duplicating training programs."

Sneed said the sheet metal program tried to take as many apprentices as could be employed each year, "which is 12 to 15 every year. If we take more, we cannot employ these apprentices.

"So if we start a new youth apprenticeship, then will there be enough employment for them, if they can find someone to hire them? And they shouldn't have a problem finding someone to hire them if they (vo-tech) are going to pay the employer."

Sneed went on to explain that his group is concerned that the money appropriated for youth apprenticeship "will also pay the employer for hiring the apprentices. I don't feel like that is right for them, the vo-tech or the new apprenticeship program, to pay a contractor to hire an apprentice, when our contractors actually pay to teach apprentices."

State Rep. Jim Maddox, D-Lawton, who co-authored Senate Bill 500, said the legislation was aimed at giving high school students some direction for the future.

"We had some of these same people approach us at the time the bill was going through," he said, referring to the representatives of traditional apprenticeship programs.

"They were alarmed and concerned that it would take away the existing programs out there, both labor union-oriented and private oriented," Maddox said. "We assured them that that's not the case.

"We felt like there are a number of students out there in need, who are not in school, not in a program, who don't have a goal-oriented lifestyle in front of them. We wanted to try to reach those students and bring them in under a structured program.

"A couple of private groups say, `Well, vo-tech is trying to move in and take over the whole program,' " Maddox said. "Well, we're not. We're trying to get them (students) into a structured program where they can see that they can do something."

Youth apprenticeship and the traditional apprenticeship programs are "quite different," Peters said.

"We've defined youth apprenticeship to mean a program for high school students that are enrolled in vocational education courses, and the traditional apprenticeship program typically is for out-of-school adult clients," he said. …