Are apprenticeships the solution to workforce shortages?

I wrote several weeks ago about a $2 billion construction boom coming to the Iowa City area over the next several years, and the possibility the boom will squeeze the workforce, delaying some projects or elevating costs. This morning, an official from a building trade council reached out to me about a bill that is working its way through the Iowa Legislature, and offered to show me the local apprenticeship programs to get a better feel for how it works. Bill Gerhard, president of the Iowa State Building and Construction Trades Council, is supportive of the Iowa Apprenticeship and Job Training Act. He thinks apprenticeship programs for the building trade can provide career opportunities in a field where there is demand, it will increase the skilled labor pool, and could enable the area to locally meet construction needs for years to come. Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican, proposed the apprenticeship bill in his Condition of the State speech in January. His proposal called to triple funding for apprenticeships under the 260F worker training program, increasing funding to $8 million for training at community colleges. “Apprenticeships allow students to earn while they learn, rather than taking on significant student debt,” according to Branstad’s notes from his speech. “They provide the apprentice with focused, hands-on training and a paycheck from day one.” According to the Iowa Legislature online bill book, Senate File 2317 advanced out of the Economic Development Growth Committee on Feb. 24 and was assigned to the appropriations committee on Feb. 26. While Gerhard and Branstad have outlined several positives from the bill, there’s still plenty of questions. For example, is it the…