LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — An audit of the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power released Tuesday by City Controller Ron Galperin found that the utility spends about $40 million a year on apprenticeship programs that only graduate about 51 percent or fewer of their enrollees.

The audit found that the apprenticeships for workers are the largest single item in the LADWP’s training budget and cost between $440,000 and $665,000 per graduate, yet the utility hired only about 300 graduates of its programs between 2010 and 2015 due to the low graduation numbers.

Another problem the audit found was that the LADWP does not require the graduates to work for it, so many choose to seek employment elsewhere.

“The LADWP spends hundreds of thousands of dollars of ratepayer money on each graduate of its apprenticeship programs, yet far too many people who enroll in those programs never graduate, and others take the skills we’ve taught them to private utilities,” Galperin said.

“The LADWP should set goals for training, use data to determine whether it’s meeting those goals, and review its apprenticeship programs to ensure that they are giving us the most value for our money.”

In a response sent to the controller’s office last month, DWP General Manager David Wright acknowledged the “relatively low” graduation rates and the cost of the apprenticeship training. He said the department is taking steps to address the issue, including work to attract “more highly skilled candidates” and “highlighting the benefits of working at LADWP.”

“It is also important to note that LADWP does not measure the success of its apprentice program in terms of sheer numbers that graduate, but in the quality, competency and commitment of our employees,” Wright wrote.

The audit also found that the low graduation rates are contributing to more overtime hours required because the utility lacks enough new employees, and is contributing to future staffing shortfalls, as the department anticipates that it will need to replace 1,200 to 1,700 employees who will retire in the next seven years.

Galperin called on the LADWP to better monitor its apprenticeship programs and expand pre-apprenticeship feeder programs in partnership with trade and tech schools.

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