Apprenticeships: A National Industry Standard Through Collaboration

Posted By: Jeannine Kunz, Chief Workforce Development Officer, SME on November 17, 2017

Today is our last National Apprenticeship Week post but our efforts to build and sustain successful apprenticeship programs continue 365.

Fortunately, an experienced network of experts supports these ongoing efforts. The “team” includes manufacturers, educators, individuals, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), unions, workforce agencies, and community-based organizations.

This collaborative approach helps ensure a national industry standard for competency-based apprenticeship programs. Here’s a breakdown of roles:

Industry. Employers are the center of apprenticeship programs to ensure employees obtain the skills, knowledge and abilities needed to fill open positions. Pay increases and other incentives reward employees for their commitment.

Education. Community colleges, technical
schools and other workforce educators work with manufacturers to develop curriculum geared toward specific business needs. Often, this incorporates established, national-level skill standards. Training can be conducted onsite at the employer’s facility, at school or online.

Individuals. Apprentices receive supervised, structured on-the-job training (OJT) together with classroom and online instruction – all while being paid. They are launched into lucrative careers, without the burden of heavy debt. Apprentices typically earn a certificate, which is recognized throughout the industry.

The Department of Labor (DOL). The DOL offers a formal Registered Apprenticeship program providing graduates with a nationally recognized credential validating their skills regardless of company or geographic location. The model involves progressive increases in an apprentice’s skills and wages (and often tax benefits for participating companies).

Unions. Historically, unions acted as an important partner in apprenticeship development and this continues today. Often, unions work in partnership with manufacturers to create and administer programs, ensuring growth opportunities for member workers. Some unions introduce training funds into collective bargaining negotiations.

Workforce Agencies. These organizations offer tremendous tools and resources, working closely with job seekers, students, workers, employers and more to develop career pathways. They are often partners in DOL grants and are an important source for pre-apprenticeship training.

Community-Based Organizations (CBO’s). Non-profit economic development organizations, such as WIRE-Net and Jobs for the Future, work to fuel economic growth by bringing manufacturing jobs to local communities to build a skilled workforce.

Accelerating solutions to the skills gap through apprenticeships comes down to one thing: collaboration. We applaud all these partners who are committed to building apprenticeship programs to more quickly build a pipeline of skilled workers, boost retention, reduce recruiting costs, and improve productivity.

This week, you’ve heard compelling reasons to start an apprenticeship program and gained insights from some excellent role models from Pequot Tool & Manufacturing, the West Virginia Women Work Pre-Apprenticeship Program, and Cox Manufacturing.

We hope that you have come away a better understanding of when an apprenticeship program works best and the inspiration and motivation to build your own when applicable – or continue/strengthen the one you have. We are happy to help you along the way. Contact us for ideas!

Tags: apprentice, apprenticeship, "Cox Manufacturing", DOL, "Jobs for the Future", manufacturing, "National Apprenticeship Week", OJT, "on-the-job training", "Pequot Tool & Manufacturing", "skills gap", "U.S. Department of Labor", "West Virginia Women Work Pre-Apprenticeship Program", WIRE-Net