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WilmU, DOL partner for new workforce training program

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Workforce development in Delaware

The STEP Path is a partnership between Wilmington University and Delaware’s Department of Labor. l PHOTO COURTESY OF WILMINGTON UNIVERSITY

DOVER Apprentices progressing toward a career in select trades in Delaware will soon have the opportunity to earn up to 42 college credits for their hard work.

The STEP Path, or Smart Transfer Enrollment Program for the Vocational Workforce, is a new collaboration between Delaware’s Department of Labor (DOL) and Wilmington University (WilmU) aimed at addressing the need to offer more educational opportunities to Delawareans. 

The two entities announced the program on Thursday during Youth Apprenticeship Week.

“The apprenticeship program is a really awesome workforce training tool. These students are probably some of the hardest working students out there,” Delaware’s Deputy Secretary of Labor Rachel Turney told the Delaware Business Times.

Prior to the new STEP Path, Delawareans enrolled in DOL-registered apprenticeship programs would work up to 8,000 hours alongside a mentor for on-the-job training. Turney said this can sometimes take up to four years depending on a variety of factors. For each year of training, the apprentice must also take a minimum of 144 hours of related instruction, according to the DOL. 

Now, those same apprentices can also gain up to 42 college credits upon completion of their training, based on the total amount of on-the-job training and related technical instruction hours. The credits can then benefit an associate or bachelor’s degree in applied business or other program, adding another notch in their educational toolbelt. 

In order to qualify for the STEP Path program, apprenticeships must be registered with the DOL and can include electricians, HVAC technicians, plumbers, pipefitters, steamfitters, carpenters, construction laborers, early childhood educators, auto technicians, some hospitality programs, and more, according to DOL’s website. 

“We invest a lot in post-secondary education for our residents,” Turney told DBT. “We have the SEED program, SEED Plus. . . we give free community college to Delaware students and the Dept. of Labor invests millions annually in workforce training. The apprenticeship program is free for students, too. . . And on top of it, they earn a substantial wage as a tradesperson and the ability to get this added bonus at the end? It’s really a great day to be a Delawarean.”

Turney and WilmU Senior Director of Academic Partnerships Lindsay Rice said the program could also help alleviate financial barriers to education, helping professionals achieve management or entrepreneurial roles in their field. 

“We really want individuals to see all of their pathways forward, even in their younger ages,” Rice told DBT. “No matter what direction they go, they’re going to have the opportunity to continue their education without starting over [with the STEP Path]. We don’t want the decision to be apprenticeship or college. We want individuals to have the opportunity for both. These could be very well-paying jobs. We want them to receive that training at no cost or little cost.”

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