The unlicensed apprentice program at the SIU-affiliated Paul Haul Center (PHC) for Maritime Training and Education in Piney Point, Md., has been recognized by the U.S. Labor Department as one of the best in the nation.
The school was honored as an “Innovator and Trailblazer” Aug. 1 during a Washington, D.C., summit celebrating the 75th anniversary of the signing of the National Apprenticeship Act. Presenting the award to the PHC and other top programs, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis emphasized the role apprenticeship programs play in creating a strong middle class.
“There’s a reason why industry invests $1 billion every year in apprenticeship programs,” she said. “They improve skills. They improve wages. And they improve a company’s bottom line. When all of these things happen together, they improve our economy and our way of life.”
The PHC was founded in 1967 and has operated a DOL-registered apprenticeship program since 2003. The school is America’s largest training facility for merchant seafarers and inland waterways boatmen, and has graduated more than 3,000 entry-level mariners since 2003.
John Mason, CEO of American Service Technology Inc., who accepted the award from Solis on behalf of the Paul Hall Center, said the recognition highlights the trainee program’s positive impact on the maritime industry and the country as a whole.
“It’s an outstanding example of a labor and management partnership,” he said. “It fulfills the maritime transportation industry’s need for skilled, safe and qualified workers. The trailblazer award honors apprenticeship programs that have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to excellence.”
The Aug. 1 event also celebrated the 75th anniversary of the creation of the National Apprenticeship Act. The original measure allowed the Labor Department to enact national labor standards for apprentices. There are now more than 24,000 DOL-registered apprenticeship programs in the country.
Citing a study that showed those who complete a registered apprenticeship program earn at least $250,000 more over their lifetimes, Solis said programs like the one at the PHC are vital to the country’s economic future and workers’ financial stability.
“Since my very first day as the secretary of labor, I’ve called apprenticeship one of America’s best-kept secrets,” she said. “We’re giving hundreds of thousands of Americans industry-recognized credentials. Credentials can help workers move up in their job – or move anywhere in America – knowing that their abilities will be recognized and their futures will be secure.”