The Department of Labor (DOL) has been promoting the use of apprenticeships for over 75 years. According to the most recent DOL data, about half a million workers are participating in apprenticeship programs in more than 1,000 different occupations. On average, between 1,500 and 2,000 new certified apprenticeship programs are created each year.
Here are some of the ways employers can benefit from such a program:
- Apprentices receive customized training that results in highly skilled employees trained to your needs.
- On-the-job learning from an assigned mentor combined with related technical instruction increases productivity and knowledge transfer.
- Employees who have undergone an apprenticeship are highly likely to remain loyal employees.
- A focus on safety training can reduce workers’ compensation costs.
- An apprenticeship program provides a stable and predictable pipeline for the development of qualified workers.
- A participating company can gain a reputation as an employer that’s willing to invest in its employees.
- Certified apprenticeship programs offer a systematic approach to training that ensures employees have the ability to produce at the highest skill levels required for that occupation.
As for the employees, chances are they won’t want to participate in an apprenticeship unless they could see it as benefiting them directly. A well-developed apprenticeship program offers a participant the opportunity to qualify for a paying job, and provides the training needed to command higher wages.
While most apprenticeships are in traditional trades like construction and manufacturing, there are also many apprentices working in service industries including transportation, health care, wholesale, retail, administration, data processing, finance and insurance.
Although employers can structure an apprenticeship any way they want, programs certified by the DOL’s Office of Apprenticeship (in conjunction with state agencies) generally will be more meaningful to prospective and current employees. That’s because they can earn a “Completion of Registered Apprenticeship” certificate that credibly attests to their achievement. It’s similar to a diploma from a trade school, which might be the only formal recognition of training achievement participants receive.
5 Steps to Creating a Registered Program
Employers interested in developing a registered apprenticeship program can follow these five steps, outlined by the DOL.
Step 1. Think through an apprenticeship strategy by addressing these questions: What are the biggest hiring challenges in the present workforce for technical jobs that don’t require a college degree? Does your workforce already include employees who could participate along with new hires? Will the manpower challenge likely remain the same in the future, or grow?
Step 2. Scout out partner organizations. “Apprenticeship programs are born from collaboration among partners,” states the DOL. Those include other businesses, industry associations, labor organizations, educational institutions (for example, community colleges), community foundations, and the public workforce system (such as dispatchers). The partner organizations can help design the apprenticeship, provide some of the educational resources, and the apprentices themselves. For the program to be certified, a state apprenticeship agency must be involved.
Step 3. Build a program. These are the components that are needed:
- Direct business involvement. That is, identify who will fill the leadership roles within the existing staff.
- On-the-job training, the basic job aspect of the program.
- “Related instruction,” or learning that takes place outside of the job itself, including classroom-based training.
- Rewards for skill gains. Plan for an communicate to apprentices the financial rewards they will enjoy as they achieve key milestones (and thus become more valuable to the business). And
- The end game. The point at which the apprenticeship is completed, and the certification that accompanies it.
Step 4. Register the program with the “Apprenticeship USA Network” — a group of organizations that have the authority to deem a well-planned program eligible for apprentices to receive their “Completion of Registered Apprenticeship” certificate. Being registered can also possibly qualify a company for state and federal tax credits, and other forms of financial support.
Step 5. Flip the switch and launch the program. Be sure to have systems in place to evaluate the success of the program as it moves forward, and make any necessary adjustments on the fly or with each new apprentice.
Creating and maintaining an active apprenticeship program may seem like a daunting task. But it will likely be much less intimidating once it’s in process, particularly if it’s modeled after similar organizations that have successful ongoing programs. Business owners can benefit from the lessons learned by others who’ve gone before them, and in the process, make setting up a successful apprentice program easier and more likely to succeed.