The Registered Apprenticeship program is administered by the U.S. Department of Labor. In some states a representative of the U.S. Department of Labor works with employers or sponsors to develop and register their programs, while in other states a State Apprenticeship Agency plays this role. In addition, there are state-based youth apprenticeship programs as well as U.S. military apprenticeships.
While flexible, this system of independently developed and approved apprenticeship programs has some downsides, including potentially inconsistent program quality and increased start up times and costs for employers or sponsors. Also, other employers may be reluctant to accept Registered Apprenticeship as a valid credential if they can’t readily determine what was required of an apprentice to complete the program.
National Occupational Frameworks (NOF)
For those reasons, the U.S. Department of Labor has contracted with the Urban Institute to develop voluntary, consensus-based National Occupational Frameworks (NOFs) to help employers and sponsors develop, and apprenticeship officials evaluate, new apprenticeship programs. These NOFs were developed in partnership with employers, sponsors, expert workers, educators, subject matter experts, trade associations, labor organizations and licensing bodies to ensure that they meet the needs of a broad range of companies and organizations and enable industry-wide acceptance of apprenticeship training.
Employers or sponsors who want to register a new apprenticeship program can use the NOFs as a starting point. Although no employer or sponsor is required to use the NOFs, those who do will receive expedited review by their federal Registered Apprenticeship representative.* Employers or sponsors may customize their apprenticeship program to meet their unique needs, but at least 80% of the program must align with the NOF to receive expedited review and approval. Job functions or competencies identified in the NOFs as advanced or optional need not be included in the sponsor’s individual program and do not count against the allowable 20 percent customization.
Although the NOFs have been designed to support competency-based programs (see What is Apprenticeship?) they can easily be adapted to support time-based or hybrid programs as well.
Approved US Apprenticeships
For occupations that don’t yet have an approved NOF, it may be helpful to consult apprenticeship standards used by state-based youth apprenticeship programs, the U.S. military or sponsors whose programs were previously registered by the U.S. Department of Labor (U.S. Civilian Work Process Schedules) or their State Apprenticeship Agency.