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Expanding the talent pipeline: The value of registered apprenticeships in advanced manufacturing

Expanding the talent pipeline: The value of registered apprenticeships in advanced manufacturing

Apprenticeship programs serve as important entryways to careers in building and construction trades as well as skilled crafts. Many plumbers, electricians and other tradesmen learned as apprentices, ultimately receiving their “Journeyman” papers as a certification of skills through programs based on a standard of required competencies.

Apprenticeships continue to provide valuable and versatile credentials that are recognized widely. However, historically, apprenticeships have not been viewed as a good fit for building a career in the manufacturing field. Specifically, the gateway to opportunities in advanced manufacturing is a college degree, positioning these good-paying, long-term jobs out of reach for many.

Today, we suffer from a shortage of workers in advanced manufacturing and other tech-related industries, and the gap continues to widen. Innovative approaches to apprenticeships can help fill that gap, such as by enabling individuals to learn while they earn and eliminating the potentially prohibitive cost of a college degree.

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Mike Russo

With the shortage of talent in these high-value industries and the current volatility in the tech sector, Registered Apprenticeship Programs (RAPs) provide a timely solution. Developed in partnership with industry leaders and employers, RAPs broaden the talent pipeline by creating attainable opportunities for a broader segment of the population and first-generation workers. RAPs also help to bolster and prepare a workforce with a foundation of transferable skills required by wide swaths of employers in advanced manufacturing. In many cases, RAPs position participants for long-term professional growth and increase employee retention.

Embracing Registered Apprenticeship Programs in advanced manufacturing will not only help us close the tech talent gap, but provide pathways to a brighter, more prosperous future for North Carolinians and Americans across the country.


Prior to founding NIIT, Mr. Russo was the Vice President of Industry Advancement and Government Programs at SEMI, the industry association representing the global end-to-end electronics industry including designers, chemical and material producers, tool makers and semiconductor chip makers. In that role Mike was responsible for strategy development, programs and government partnerships intended to sustain and grow the semiconductor industry and address the priority issues faced by SEMI’s membership. Other roles at SEMI included Vice President of Global Industry Advocacy as well as Vice President of Talent Advocacy.

Mr. Russo spent nearly a decade leading the corporate Government Affairs office in the U.S. for Global Foundries, the nation’s largest contract semiconductor chip maker, overseeing government relations, regulatory affairs and strategic initiatives including developing the talent pipeline, increasing supply chain innovation and improving supply chain security.

Mr. Russo has also served as a private sector advisor to the U.S. government in the areas of manufacturing and industrial base policy and lead the private sector advisory group for the National Network of Manufacturing Innovation Institute (now Manufacturing USA) under the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP). Mike is a committee member of the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine Innovation Policy Forum and the Executive Committee Chairman and founding member of MForesight, the nation’s private sector advisory group on manufacturing.

Mr. Russo has also served as a senior staffer in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. With more than 3 decades experience in manufacturing, Mike has extensive experience in workforce and organizational development, supply chain innovation and security, and infrastructure development, and as the President of the Entregar Consulting Group, provided related solutions to clients and guidance for public-private partnerships.

Prior to his work in Congress, Mr. Russo was an Executive Officer for the nation’s oldest industrial union, was responsible for all operations in the Northeastern United States. An expert in organizational development and effectiveness, Mr. Russo has led initiatives in total workplace redesign and the development of innovative workplace safety cultures, helping to make U.S. manufacturers and businesses globally competitive.

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