SAN FRANCISCO -- -- Gov. Gray Davis has issued a proclamation declaring October 1999 "Apprenticeship Month" in honor of the more than 56,000 students currently developing skills as apprentices and in recognition of the 60th anniversary of the legislation establishing the state's program.
" … The landmark legislation created California's apprenticeship program which offers high school students the opportunity to receive paid, on-the-job training while pursuing their education," the proclamation reads in part.
The California apprenticeship system, in fact, has developed as a unique response to the demands of the state's economy for skilled workers because it partners government, labor, industry and education as it trains new generations of students to succeed in industries such as health care, culinary arts, entertainment and construction. Students are paid while learning their craft.
In Fresno, for example, carpenter apprentices start at $10.70 per hour and receive health benefits of approximately $5 per hour, according to David Ingram, an instructor and district coordinator of the Fresno apprenticeship program. They receive a 7.5 percent pay increase every six months. After working 400 hours, the apprentices receive full health coverage for themselves and their families. They can bank up to six months advance health care coverage. By the second year they are eligible for pensions and other retirement benefits.
This has attracted workers like Samuel Apodaca, an ironworker apprentice in the second year of a three-year apprenticeship who earns between $14 and $16 per hour and is employed on a Fresno highway construction project. Apodaca, the father of three, recently purchased his first home.
"I believe it's the best thing I've done in my life," he says. "Going to school while you work is like adding another tool to your tool belt. The guys respect you more because you've gone to school for your trade. Combining the book with field learning turns you into a professional."
"This is the kind of state program the Davis administration fully endorses because it provides a learning environment that supports the career ambitions of the young and responds to the business needs of the economy," says Steve Smith, director of the Department of Industrial Relations, which oversees the division that administers the state's apprenticeship programs.
To emphasize his commitment, Gov. Davis is the first California governor in more than a decade who has increased budgeting for the apprenticeship program.
The Shelley-Maloney Apprentice Standards Act of 1939 was passed to curb abuses of apprenticeship programs, which were rooted in the industrial revolution and dramatically expanded in response to this century's wartime demands for trained craft workers.
The act, sponsored by state Sen. Jack Shelley and Assemblymember Thomas Maloney, provided an administrative structure, uniform standards of training and expansion of vocational education facilities in California. During the first meeting of the California Apprenticeship Council in 1939, the members agreed their goal was to institute a system to develop skilled workers. According to the meeting minutes, they believed their efforts would "give to the skilled worker pride and pleasure in the handicraft of his trade, the proper selection of those to learn his trade, safety from incompetent and cheap labor, protection from glutted labor markets, increased earning power, which is purchasing power, and security and safety in employment."
Since that time the state's Division of Apprenticeship Standards has grown from administering 50 apprentice agreements to overseeing 56,414 agreements.
Meet California's Apprentices - October 1999