Women’s Apprenticeships and Nontraditional Occupations Act

The Women’s Apprenticeships and Nontraditional Occupations Act (WANTO) is the primary Department of Labor program designed to train women for nontraditional occupations.

WANTO was enacted in 1992 to provide technical assistance to employers and labor unions to encourage employment of women in apprentice-able occupations and nontraditional occupations. WANTO support is given through federal grants to organizations across the country to support innovative projects that improve the recruitment, hiring, training, employment, and retention of women in apprenticeships in industries, such as advanced manufacturing, transportation, and construction.

Why Is This Important to NAPE?

In an increasingly globalized economy, diversity is key to the modern workforce. Diversity in the workplace—whether it is gender, racial, age, ability, or other types of diversity—helps drive innovation by increasing productivity, creativity, and problem solving. It also improves employee recruitment and retention and provides any workplace a competitive, global edge. Increasing workplace diversity is thus a key element to strengthening the American economy. However, much remains to be done regarding gender equity in certain work areas, such as the technical fields. Although they represent half of the workforce, two-thirds of women work in only 5% of occupation, most of which are among the lowest paying.

Nontraditional careers for women, such as technical and engineering jobs, are some of the most high-paying occupations in the United States. Preparation for work in nontraditional and higher-paying fields is a major pathway out of poverty for low-income women. WANTO helps women prepare for nontraditional careers by providing assistance to employers so that they may successfully recruit, train, and retain women in apprentice-able occupations and nontraditional occupations, which expands the employment and self-sufficiency options of women.

A 2011 Government Accountability Office report stated that out of 47 potentially duplicative programs, WANTO is “one of three programs” providing specialized services to populations “not targeted by any other of the programs we surveyed.”

Current Status

September 26, 2018: The WANTO grant program awarded $1,403,190 in 2018 to four community-based organizations to encourage women’s employment in underrepresented occupations and pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs. Organizations receiving funds will provide one or more of the following types of technical assistance:

  • Developing pre-apprenticeship, apprenticeship, or nontraditional skills training programs to prepare women for those careers;
  • Providing ongoing orientations for employers, unions, and workers on creating a successful environment for women to succeed in those careers; and
  • Setting up support groups and facilitating networks for women to improve their retention.

In 2018, the Women’s Bureau awarded grants to the following entities:

The 2018 grants are administered by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau and the Employment and Training Administration.

April 5, 2016: The USDOL announced that through the program, four community-based organizations will get grants to create regional, multi-state resource centers. Those facilities will be geared toward increasing the number of women entering “nontraditional occupations,” in part through apprenticeship programs.

June 26, 2012: The USDOL awarded $1.8 million in grants to consortia in six states through WANTO. The grantees are community-based organizations, each of which has formed a consortium with a local Workforce Investment Area and at least one Registered Apprenticeship program sponsor. This consortium-based approach is intended to ensure that women served by WANTO grants have access to a range of supportive services and training, as well as to specific nontraditional employment opportunities.

Necessary Action

As the U.S. economy slowly recovers from the recent recession, many workers still need training to gain the skills that a modern economy requires. To help women to gain these skills and become more economically secure (which would further close the gender pay gap), Congress should reinstate funding for WANTO, particularly because WANTO has historically been one of the few sources of federal funding for job training for women pursuing nontraditional careers.

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