Not Your Grandfather’s Apprenticeship Program

Posted By: John Hindman, Director of Learning Services, Tooling U-SME on December 15, 2016

Around for generations, apprenticeships, which allow employees to earn while they learn, are seeing a renaissance as the manufacturing industry addresses the skills gap.

But these aren’t your grandfather’s apprenticeship programs. Today, informal, time-based programs are out. Formal, competency-based programs are in.

Here’s the difference:

Traditionally, apprenticeship programs were constructed through the completion of education hours combined with on-the-job training (OJT) hours.

Unfortunately, the system lacked an industry-wide standard, leaving companies with the task of doing the heavy lifting to carry out the program design, implementation and management.

The modern day apprenticeship model is geared toward an industry standard with a competency-based approach.

It tracks the Related Training Instruction (RTI) that is required for apprenticeship

education as well as the demonstrated OJT skills a worker should perform over the years of his or her development.

Tooling U-SME’s Apprenticeship Acceleration Framework defines specific knowledge and skill requirements that align with common apprenticeship job functions. The level of detail allows apprentices to show competence in these roles through a more accelerated process. The system validates that knowledge has been transferred.

As some states recognize Prior Learning Assessment, some apprentices may test out of some RTI hours or be able to reduce OJT time if they demonstrate required skills.

This has advantages for the employee, too, as the average annual wage for a fully-proficient worker who completes an apprenticeship is $50,000.

Cox Manufacturing, a 60-year old San Antonio maker of precision cut metal components, is one manufacturer seeing strong results from its apprenticeship program.

“The biggest advantage for a company is related to culture and retention,” said Sean Althaus, the company’s training coordinator. “Turnover has been on a downward trend the last two years. It’s an investment in the future.”

Cox implemented a competency-based Registered Apprenticeship program, certified by the Department of Labor. RTI is 144 hours a year for three years with 6,000 hours of OJT.

Online classes through Tooling U-SME are offered off the clock so productivity is not affected. Apprentices get paid one hour of overtime per week to cover the time. The program offers a rolling start, which helps speed up the process.

“It’s difficult to grow in manufacturing without the right people in place,” said Althaus. “Companies need to have apprenticeship programs in place for the long run.”

For more details and success stories, check out our new white paper Apprenticeships: Modernizing a Proven Workforce Development Strategy.