Apprenticeships Are Evolving & Your Company Should, Too

Apprenticeships Are Evolving & Your Company Should, Too

Most people picture construction or other skilled labor when they hear the word apprentice.

Apprenticeships have evolved a lot over the years, expanding into all sorts of fields. Now, you’re just as likely to find an apprentice wearing a suit in an office as you are to find one in a hardhat at a shipyard.

Businesses are lamenting the lack of workers with the skills they need. It’s time to explore apprenticeships to solve these talent shortages and skill gaps!

Programs to improve the workforce’s skills:

In January 2014 President Obama stated “I’ve asked Congress to fund proven programs that connect more ready-to-work Americans with ready-to-be-filled jobs.”

Congress followed through in July 2014 by passing the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), with an intent to train our workforce, coupled with Department of Labor funding for effective and innovative programs such as apprenticeships.

In June of this year, President Trump signed an Executive Order to double the amount that the government is spending on apprenticeship programs.

Apprenticeships aren’t just for skilled trades:

Traditionally, in the United States, apprenticeships have primarily been utilized for skilled trades and have been associated with labor unions and collective bargaining agreements.

This association may be one reason that non-unionized businesses have hesitated to utilize apprenticeship programs to train their workforce.

Currently there are literally hundreds of apprenticeship occupations on L&I’s website, and you would no doubt be surprised by some of them. They start with Accounts Payable Clerk and end with Youth Development Practitioner, neither of which are traditionally thought of as apprenticeship trades.

Apprenticeship program regulations:

Apprenticeship programs must be registered with the Department of Labor and Industries, and must comply with federal and state laws.

They require that apprentices:

  • Receive on-the-job training under the direction of an experienced skilled worker
  • Receive a minimum of 144 hours of classroom instruction at a community or technical college
  • Are paid an agreed wage, which increases as their skill level improves

The apprentice is responsible for paying for their tuition and books, but they are eligible to receive a 50% tuition waver at a Washington state community or technical college.

At the end of the apprenticeship (a period of somewhere between one and six years), the trained worker must be given a nationally recognized certificate and considered to be a journey level worker.

Innovative approaches to apprenticeships:

Many communities are finding innovative ways to implement apprenticeships.

Small businesses in industry sectors are joining together to form apprenticeship programs in order to develop a pool of skilled talent.

For example, in South Carolina, the business community came together to create apprenticeship programs to train workers in high demand occupations like computer science and health care careers. The state has some skin in the game as well by offering a $1,000 per year tax credit to businesses for each apprentice employed during the year.

There is little doubt that we are facing a skills gap and that the looming retirement of the Baby Boom generation will create a shortage of skilled workers.

Many of the in-demand occupations do not require a four year college degree, but rather some technical or on-the-job training.

The benefits of working together with other businesses:

There are tremendous benefits for the business community to collectively invest in developing the workforce we need.

Collaboration and partnerships by businesses in the same sector will reduce the fear that an individual company’s investment in employee training will result in a competitor luring away a trained worker.

Businesses will have direct input into the design of the training, tailoring it their own businesses and the local demand. An excellent program will not only benefit local businesses, but it will serve as an attraction for recruiting talent to our community.

Lastly, it’s been proven that workers are more loyal to employers who have invested in their education and professional growth.

The wrap-up:

Under President Trump’s new order, a business-led task force will lead the way. The goal is to reduce the red tape associated with establishing and administering apprenticeship programs. They will also establish industry standards that are universally acceptable.

This is the perfect time for employers to get involved. Let’s start to think big and bold.

With creativity and innovation we can be seen as leaders in workforce development and the Kitsap Peninsula could become a magnet for talented workers seeking new career options!