The workforce development system is experiencing a massive strain as staff strive to answer to the pandemic’s acceleration of trends toward remote work and rapidly advancing technology. To build a large and fully competitive U.S. workforce, it is crucial to build a collaborative strategy for preparing, upskilling, and reskilling a future-ready workforce. This is where earn-as-you-learn opportunities, such as apprenticeship programs, can draw in more workers. And President Biden is in favor of apprenticeship funding. He created the American Jobs Plan, which proposes $48 billion for workforce training, including the creation of “one to two million new registered apprenticeships slots.”
While all employment sectors are facing challenging workforce shortages and gaps as the economy struggles to recover, apprenticeships offer an easy and effective way to recruit and develop a highly skilled workforce, which benefits both employers and jobseekers on a long-term basis.
In this blog, you will learn more about apprenticeships, the benefits they offer and the steps needed to start an apprenticeship program at your company.
What is an apprenticeship?
Apprenticeships offer a viable solution for recruiting, training and retaining world-class talent. Apprenticeships are an earn-as-you-learn, flexible workforce development tool and training strategy that can be customized to meet the needs of any business. Connecting apprenticeship programs with your state and local workforce system is a win-win partnership.
Apprenticeship programs generally consist of a combination of on-the-job training and classroom instruction with an affiliated educational partner. This combination, along with the fact that workers in an apprenticeship program earn a full-time wage while they are participating in the program, is a proven recipe for success. According to the United States Department of Labor (DOL), 92% of apprentices that complete an apprenticeship are still employed nine months later.
Here are 6 ways apprenticeships can benefit your company:
- Helps recruit and develop a highly skilled workforce
- Improves productivity and the bottom line
- Provides opportunities for tax credits and employee tuition benefits
- For every dollar spent on apprenticeship, employers get approximately $1.50 ROI*
- Reduces turnover costs and increases employee retention
- Creates industry-driven and flexible training solutions to meet national and local needs
It goes without saying that apprenticeships are good for business … despite the misconceptions that exist. Apprenticeships have come a long way since the apprenticeship system started 75 years ago in the construction and skilled trades industries. Some people still believe that apprenticeships are only useful for entry-level positions in those industries, but that is a big misconception.
Here are some common myths about apprenticeships:
- Apprenticeships are only used in skilled trades and manufacturing industries - While this was once true, today there are more than 636,000 apprentices nationwide in over 1,200 occupations across 175 industries, including Healthcare, Information Technology, Transportation, Logistics, Energy, Fashion, Law, Banking and Defense. The DOL has a comprehensive list of “apprentice-able” occupations on its website, found here: https://www.doleta.gov/OA/occupations.cfm
- Only men participate in Apprenticeships - This used to be the case, but numbers are changing. According to the DOL, 12% of registered apprenticeships are held by women, minorities and veterans. For more on women in apprenticeships, check out this guide published by the DOL.
- There’s limited state funding for Apprenticeships - As mentioned above, President Biden has authorized proposed funding for workforce training, including apprenticeships. This year, more than $130M in grants was awarded for registered apprenticeships across the country. Go here to see if your state received an Apprenticeship Expansion, Equity and Innovation grant.
- Apprenticeships aren’t used much anymore - There is actually very high demand for these programs. Despite a brief plateau during the Covid-19 pandemic, the ranks of registered apprentices have increased every year since 2011, a 64% increase according to the DOL.
- Apprenticeships are for people who don’t do well at school - Apprenticeships are simply an alternative route into skilled employment for those who prefer to undertake career technical training as opposed to academic studies.
Now that you understand how impactful and effective apprenticeships can be, you might be wondering how you can implement a program at your organization.
What are the steps I would take to start an apprenticeship program? Once you’ve determined that an apprenticeship program is a great way for your company to build a skilled workforce, partner up!
The first step for an employer is to collaborate with partners such as businesses, workforce intermediaries (such as labor organizations or industry associations), educational institutions, providers in the public workforce system (like EDSI), and other community organizations. The partnership will work together to identify the resources needed, design the apprenticeship program, and recruit apprentices – who could be either jobseekers or current employees.
Next, partners will work together to build the apprenticeship program. There should be five core components: direct business involvement, on-the-job training, related instruction, rewards for skill gains, and completion resulting in a national occupation credential. For each, the partners will develop the details of that component, leverage the resources needed, and decide which partners will carry out that part of the program.
Who operates and pays for the apprenticeship program?
When it comes to funding, The U.S. Department of Labor is a great resource for learning about Registered Apprenticeship funding opportunities and non-registered grants and contracts. You can also visit www.grants.gov and/or www.sam.gov to view all federally funded opportunities. This Federal Resources Playbook is also a helpful resource - it has everything you need to know about funding for apprenticeships.
When it comes to the operations side, programs are most often operated by private sector organizations or labor/management “sponsors.” If there are non-federally funded costs involved, program sponsors often pay for items such as tuition and administrative fees as well as wages to their apprentices. As an example, my employer – a workforce development and consulting company – has served as sponsor of several apprenticeship programs, taking responsibility for the administration of the program, thereby reducing the burden on employers. We help oversee the program, establish necessary partnerships, and secure funding to effectively lead your company down a path of self-sustainability.
Employers we’ve worked with say they appreciate apprenticeships because employees who go through the program stay longer.
The Department of Labor tracks apprenticeship outcomes and employment statistics. Here is an example of the growing numbers from the last five years:
- 349,000+ participants completed an apprenticeship
- 13,500+ new apprenticeship programs were created
- A 2018 study shows that 65% of apprentices remained in full-time employment after finishing their apprenticeship
Employers believe the time and money spent educating and training employees and forging a positive working relationship is mutually beneficial in building a skilled workforce, reducing turnover, and increasing productivity, which ultimately creates long-term organizational success.
How do I register my apprenticeship program?
Now that you’ve built your apprenticeship program and have funding secured, the last step in getting your program running is to register. Registered apprenticeship programs are those programs that have met national standards for registration with the U.S. Department of Labor. Businesses that register their program can access many benefits, including a nationwide network of expertise and support at no cost, tax credits in many states, and funding and other resources from federal programs. Go here for information on the registration process.
This week, November 15-21 is National Apprenticeship Week (NAW), a national celebration that offers leaders in business, labor, education and other partners a chance to express their support for Apprenticeship. In celebration of this fifth annual event, why not make your company the next to start an apprenticeship program? Apprenticeships are a win-win for employers, jobseekers and communities.
Contact us today if you’d like to learn more about apprenticeships or how to get started in creating a program at your company.