Four Tips for Creating an Apprenticeship Program

A shortage of skilled workers is a real concern in some of the nation’s largest industries. If you fear your business could find itself struggling to fill positions, one way to lay the groundwork for a solution is to create an apprenticeship program.

Apprenticeships are paid positions that focus on gradual, step-by-step training aimed at creating fully realized, often certified workers. By creating such a program, you can ‘stock the waters’ with quality employees who are not only proficient in their professions but also invested in their industries. Here are four tips for getting started:

  1. Think it through. Discuss your apprenticeship strategy with both your business’ leadership and your rank-and-file employees. Address questions such as:
  • What are our biggest hiring challenges for technical jobs that do not require a college degree?
  • Do we already have employees who could participate in an apprenticeship program?
  • How will our business change in the future, and which skill sets will we most likely lack?

Ideally, your program will focus on the specific types of skilled workers who will be in shortest supply in years to come.

  1. Look for partners. Successful apprenticeship programs often involve collaboration among various partners. These may include:
  • Other similar businesses or organizations
  • Industry or professional associations
  • Labor organizations
  • Educational institutions (for example, community colleges)
  • Public agencies (such as police and fire departments)

The partner organizations can help you design the apprenticeship, provide some of the educational resources, and assist in finding the apprentices themselves.

  1. Build the engine. An apprenticeship program is like an engine — it will have many moving parts. To build your engine, start by identifying who will fill the leadership roles within your existing staff. Every program needs a champion (or several). Also pinpoint who will provide the on-the-job training to each apprentice — these may be people different from those who are leading the program.

From there, anticipate where participants will receive ‘related instruction.’ Most apprenticeship programs involve learning that takes place outside of the job itself, including classroom-based training. In addition, look into how you will allocate funds to compensate and reward apprentices as they achieve key milestones.

Last, but not least, target the end game. That is, define the point at which the apprenticeship will be completed and what type of certification might accompany it.

  1. Consider registering the program. You can register your apprenticeship program with the U.S. Department of Labor. Doing so will place it within a network of registered apprenticeships that offers access to additional expertise and support. Your graduates will receive a national, industry-recognized credential, while your business may qualify for tax breaks at the state and/or federal level.

The challenge to obtaining federal registration, as well as to creating any effective apprenticeship program, is establishing and adhering to high quality standards for training, education, and administration. We can help you assess the concept and determine whether it is financially feasible for your business.

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