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Utah Legislature To Consider Bill To Expand Student Apprenticeship Program

On Wednesday, the Business, Economic Development and Labor Appropriations committee heard testimony to further expand a statewide student apprenticeship program that seeks to give high school students credit for workforce experience. 

House Bill 68 passed during the 2020 session, but had its funding pulled back during a special session last year. Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development Ben Hart said the initial rollout of the apprenticeship program was a success despite cuts and difficult implementation during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“When you can allow a student to get an experience that extends the classroom, so it’s not just about what you can learn in a textbook, but how you apply it in real life. It really does change perspectives,” Hart said.

Students in the apprenticeship program split their school week, spending a portion in the classroom as well as on the jobsite.

The pilot program joined schools in Salt Lake City School District with Stadler Rail. Lucy Andre, who is the General Counsel at Stadler Rail, said students are paid for their time working and can continue their apprenticeship after high school.

Andre said students who choose to continue their apprenticeship enroll in Salt Lake Community College and have a portion of their tuition deferred and the rest paid for by Stadler Rail. She also said no portion of the appropriation would go to private businesses. 

“This bill isn’t to give private business any money,” Andre said. “What it’s for is to create more opportunities for students. And I’m here because I get to see, every single day, the transformational power of an apprenticeship program like this.” 

The $2.5 million request for appropriation would allow school districts across Utah to develop apprenticeship programs with several businesses, including Zion Bank and Intermountain Electronics in Carbon County. 

The committee did not immediately vote on the bill.