CHATTANOOGA, TN – BuildWithin, a national apprenticeship intermediary approved by the U.S. Department of Labor, has announced it is working closely with Hamilton County Mayor Weston Wamp, Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly, Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Dr. Justin Robertson, the Benwood Foundation, and Chattanooga 2.0 to establish Chattanooga as one of only five Apprenticeship Innovation Districts (AID) in the country. As an AID, Chattanooga businesses will receive support and guidance from BuildWithin on how to create and grow Registered Apprenticeship and Youth Apprenticeship Programs, providing them with a new approach to providing local residents the ability to “earn while they learn” and ultimately move into fulfilling and high-demand careers.
The program was formally announced Wednesday, November 16th, at a meeting with local business leaders at Unum.
Establishing Chattanooga as an AID is part of BuildWithin’s charge as the recipient of a $7.9 million Apprenticeship Building America Grant from the Department of Labor. The Apprenticeship Building America program was created to strengthen, modernize, expand, and diversify the Department of Labor’s Registered Apprenticeship Program to enable more workers to find reliable pathways to the middle class. One of the primary goals for Chattanooga as an AID is to create 100 new registered apprenticeship programs over the course of the four-year grant. Other goals include the expansion of existing apprenticeship programs in the area and the enrollment of 300+ individuals in apprenticeships per year in each AID.
“Establishing Hamilton County as an Apprenticeship Innovation District will provide members of our workforce, regardless of experience or background, with new career opportunities while simultaneously providing the businesses that are so important to our community with additional options for finding talent and filling open jobs,” said Hamilton County Mayor Weston Wamp. “I am proud our county is leading the state in jobs innovation.”
Chattanooga was selected as an AID due in large part to the support of community organizations, who share the goal of creating and expanding job opportunities through apprenticeship programs. Other criteria included a base of Chattanooga employers already running – or generally interested in – apprenticeship programs as well as a network of stakeholders, such as schools, including community foundations, and workforce boards that support apprenticeship programs.
“Chattanooga has always been a city with an unwavering dedication to supporting its workforce, and the establishment of a formal apprenticeship effort is case and point,” said Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly. “I am excited to see what doors will open for our residents because of this effort, and am committed to continuing to find new ways to drive opportunity for our residents today and every day.”
“Creating and expanding apprenticeships within our community will not only bring additional support to the Future Ready Institutes, but also grow our local ecosystem of career-focused experiences for students as we work to make sure every student is equipped and ready for life beyond high school,” said Superintendent Dr. Justin Robertson.
“It is incredibly timely that today – during National Apprenticeship Week – we get to kick off an initiative that will be a game changer for both Hamilton County- Chattanooga businesses and residents,” said Michelle Rhee, co-founder of BuildWithin and former Chancellor of DC Public Schools. “Employers can no longer afford to overlook non-traditional candidates, particularly when there are over 11.5 million unfilled jobs in the U.S. As such, we are looking to work with the Hamilton County- Chattanooga community to communicate the value of apprenticeships, and prioritizing potential over credential.”
BuildWithin is a software platform that enables employers to create, manage and expand apprenticeship programs, accelerating the productivity of new workers. Founded in 2021 by Michelle Rhee and Ximena Hartsock, BuildWithin is dedicated to upskilling today’s workforce. It is backed by Dundee Venture Capital and Black Capital. For more information visit www.buildwithin.com