Discussing the Importance of Apprenticeship

Ambassador Hamamoto and Shea Gopaul, Executive Director of the Global Apprenticeships Network, convened Kristin Sparding from the U.S. Department of Labor, Deborah Greenfield from the International Labor Organization, and representatives of Argentina, Colombia, Indonesia, and Malawi to discuss the importance of apprenticeship in the margins of this year’s International Labour Conference (Geneva, 30 May - 10 June 2016). Ambassador Hamamoto praised the participants, highlighting President Obama’s challenge to double the number of apprentices in the U.S. by 2019. U.S. Mission Photo/Eric Bridiers
Ambassador Hamamoto and Shea Gopaul, Executive Director of the Global Apprenticeships Network, convened Kristin Sparding from the U.S. Department of Labor, Deborah Greenfield from the International Labor Organization, and representatives of Argentina, Colombia, Indonesia, and Malawi to discuss the i

Opening Remarks by Ambassador Hamamoto at Apprenticeship Breakfast

U.S. Mission Geneva
Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Good morning, everybody.  Thank you all for being here this morning. I’m going to be brief, because we want to use this opportunity to hear what you and your organizations are doing to promote apprenticeships and address the issue of youth unemployment, particularly with respect to young women.

I’d like to start by thanking Shea Gopaul, Executive Director of the Global Apprenticeships Network, and recognizing the important role of the GAN network.  GAN is a real partner in rallying key stakeholders around concrete solutions. The Network’s programs help overcome the work-inexperience trap and tackle the global youth unemployment crisis head on. And as a former engineer, I’m particularly interested in the projects that address the current gender imbalance in STEM education.

I would also like to thank Shea for being among the first to sign on as a Geneva Gender Champion last year. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Geneva Gender Champions, it is a new leadership network – currently more than 100 strong – dedicated to promoting gender equality in our work and throughout our organizations.

Director General Ryder of the ILO is also a Gender Champion, and he has made a strong personal commitment to support women in the world of work.  And I’m glad that Deborah Greenfield could join us today. Deborah recently joined the ILO as Deputy Director General for Policy, and we’re looking forward to working closely with her on a number of important areas, including on the research and support the ILO provides on apprenticeships.

Finally, I’m happy to be joined by Kristin Sparding from the U.S. Department of Labor.  Two years ago, President Obama challenged the Labor Department to double the number of apprentices by 2019. And it seems we’re well on our way — already having added 75,000 apprenticeships, the largest increase in nearly a decade.

To be clear, the goal isn’t just to double positions, but also to diversify and open up opportunities for women and other under-represented groups. This is an urgent and complex issue. But there is progress. All across America, we’re seeing companies recruiting young men and women for a wide range of apprenticeship programs. For example, women hold the vast majority of apprenticeships in the health care industry, but represent only a fraction of apprenticeships in the construction and utilities industries. Some states, though, are making headway, addressing the specific needs of women – like childcare.  And it’s working: The state of Oregon, for instance, has three times the national average of women apprenticeships in construction trades.

This focus on apprenticeships has become a global trend.

And I’m really looking forward to hearing what’s happening in Argentina, Colombia, Indonesia, and Malawi. Apprenticeship programs and systems vary from country to country, but they often face similar challenges, so there’s much we can learn from each other.

That’s why the U.S. has already signed agreements with Germany, Switzerland, and Spain – agreements to increase cooperation on workforce development, and on apprenticeships in particular. And that’s why it is also very important to work in partnership with organizations like GAN to engage the business sector and build support for quality apprenticeships in a range of new industries.

Across the globe, while we see a rising generation of young people stepping forward with hopes, expectations and talents, I don’t need to remind you that young people today are three times more likely to be unemployed than adults.

Fortunately, apprenticeship is a proven solution for recruiting, training, and retaining talent – to help all of us address innovation, sustainable economic growth, and social progress.  And for these young men and women, apprenticeship is, first and foremost, the hope for a better future.

With that, I would like to turn it over to the Executive Director of the Global Apprenticeships Network, Shea Gopaul, to kick off the discussion, and then I’m hoping we can open it up so that you can all share your insights and report on what you see that’s working most effectively.

Thank you.