When Anita Bedford, director of experiential learning, walked into the White House at the beginning of September, she was welcomed as a Department of Labor Apprenticeship Ambassador.
The Apprenticeship Ambassador Initiative is a network of more than 200 employers and industry organizations, labor organizations, educators, workforce intermediaries and community-based organizations brought together by the current administration to advance and diversify registered apprenticeships.
“Even though apprenticeships have been around for hundreds of years, they’ve mostly been associated with trades, like plumbing and electrical,” Bedford explained. “We are broadening the scope into industries like health care where apprenticeships didn’t exist before.”
Bedford is one of nine ambassadors selected from Texas, and Dallas College is the only community college represented from the state.
During her visit to the White House, Bedford, along with 75 of her fellow ambassadors, heard from the First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden, as well as Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh. They learned how the administration is working together to bring more exposure to registered apprenticeships in communities across the United States.
As an ambassador, Bedford will participate in outreach opportunities, including hosting community events and traveling to conferences, to advocate for apprenticeship programs and share how they benefit individuals, employers and communities.
“I look forward to those opportunities to talk about how apprenticeships can be another tool in the toolkit to pipeline employees to an organization.”
Building a Pipeline of Talent
Bedford’s role is a perfect match for her position at Dallas College. She was involved in bringing the first Dallas College-sponsored apprenticeships to fruition in 2018, and she’s passionate about seeing these programs continue to grow.
“When I think about my role, it’s about connecting industry and our talent here at Dallas College to create a pipeline that builds out the workforce for our community,” Bedford said.
Apprenticeships offered at Dallas College cover a wide range of industries, including healthcare and education, with growing opportunities. This past summer, Dallas College received a $5 million Department of Labor Apprenticeship Grant to expand its Workforce Scholars program.
For Bedford, the most exciting part of her role as ambassador is having Dallas College in the center of the apprenticeship movement, serving an example for how other community colleges can successfully implement apprenticeship programs. “We’ve served over 3,000 apprentices for the last four years. These apprentices have been employed, earning and learning at the same time.”
Another Path to Success
What makes Dallas College’s apprenticeships unique, Bedford shared, is that Dallas College sponsors a full 40-hour week. That means students are paid for the hours they’re in the classroom in addition to being paid for the hours spent on the job site. Relieving the burden of juggling work with school provides a better work-life balance for students, she added.
An apprenticeship offers other benefits, allowing individuals to enter the workforce immediately, meaning one less barrier to finding a way to earn money while in school. It’s also a win for the employer because they’re training an individual in their company to gain needed skills for a specific job.
Most importantly, an apprenticeship can open the door for individuals to pursue a career outside of earning a traditional college degree.
“There are many roads a student can take to be successful — not just getting a degree,” Bedford said. “The main thing for us is allowing our students’ journey to be diverse, so they understand that success can look different. And we’re here to support them.”