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Pima Community College will lead $4.23 million federal grant to develop new apprenticeship model for manufacturing

June 27, 2019

Tucson, AZ -- Pima Community College will lead a consortium of Arizona community colleges and industry partners to develop a new model for apprenticeship programs, known as “high-quality, industry-recognized apprenticeship programs,” or IRAPs, under a $4.23 million federal grant, that has a goal to expand and innovate apprenticeship programs across the United States.  The Arizona consortium’s project is called the Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Model in Manufacturing, or i-RAMM. 

The award was announced Monday by the U.S Department of Labor. Pima was one of only 23 grantees nationwide and the only one in Arizona.

Pima, along with education partners Central Arizona College, Estrella Mountain College, GateWay Community College, and Mesa Community College, working with industry, will develop apprenticeships that are competency-based and blend classroom and on-the-job experience.  Participants will earn industry certifications along with college credit. 

“We are excited to work with our partner colleges to implement a statewide approach to industry-based apprenticeships,” said Pima Chancellor Lee Lambert. “This earn-and-learn and competency-based model further demonstrates our commitment among Arizona’s community colleges to meet the needs of manufacturers and expand opportunities for students.”

Under i-RAMM, apprentices will be able to earn industry-based certifications based on demonstrated competencies. Instead of the program being clock-hour based, apprentices can earn a certification after demonstrating their skills, independent of the time it takes. High quality IRAPs include paid work, work-based learning, mentorship, education and instruction, and industry-recognized credentials. 

The National Institute of Metalworking Skills (NIMS), which provides competency-based workforce credentials, will provide the certifications and technical assistance for apprenticeship at employer sites.  The Manufacturing Institute of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), which represents 14,000 member companies as a resource and advocate, and the National Tooling & Machining Association and Arizona Chapter (NTMA and ATMA), will also assist and share the program with their members in Arizona and nationwide.   In collaboration with the Arizona Commerce Authority Office of Economic Opportunity, the model will be expanded to other participating employers and colleges in the Arizona Advanced Technology Network.

The goal is to increase the manufacturing workforce, especially in the area of Automated Industrial Technology.  The colleges will work with identified, major employers in Arizona, who have already committed to engaging more than 3,200 individuals, primarily entry-level employees to advance their skills.

Students in the program also will receive support from Arizona@Work, Chicanos Por La Causa, and in Tucson, the Tucson Urban League.

“The apprenticeship model of earning while learning has worked well in many American industries, and today we open opportunities for apprenticeships to flourish in new sectors of our economy,” U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta said in the announcement.  “With 7.4 million open jobs and job creators searching for skilled job seekers, apprenticeship expansion will continue to close the skills gap and strengthen the greatest workforce in the world – the American workforce.”


Libby Howell, Executive Director

Media, Government and Community Relations

(520) 206-4778