In the U.S., registered apprenticeship programs may be sponsored by individual businesses, trade associations or through joint partnership agreements with labor organizations . The programs are registered either by the Department of Labor’s Office of Apprenticeship (OA) or a State Apprenticeship Agency (SAA), depending upon the state in which the program is operating.
Programs offered in multiple locations across the country may qualify for registration by the DOL as a national program, meaning that state-by-state registration may not be necessary.
What is a registered apprenticeship?
Registered apprenticeship is a highly effective form of workforce preparation that engages employers in the design and delivery of training and engages apprentices as employees from the start of their program.
Registered apprenticeships have two main components:
- On-the-Job Training (OJT): An apprentice is typically required to complete a minimum of 2000 hours of structured on-the-job (OJT) training, although longer programs could include as much as 6000 hours or more of OJT. Apprentices are paid wages while participating in OJT.
- Related Technical Instruction (RTI): Apprentices must also be engaged in classroom learning that supports their OJT activities. It is recommended that the apprentice complete at least 144 hours of related technical instruction each year. RTI can be provided at the worksite, by external education providers or through online instructional programs. Typically the employer pays the cost of the RTI, and often also pays wages for the time the apprentice spends in class.
There are three kinds of apprenticeships:
- Time-based – in which an apprentice’s progress is measured by the number of hours he or she spends in OJT and RTI;
- Competency-based – in which the apprentice’s progress is measured by his or her demonstrated ability to apply the necessary knowledge, skills, attitudes and critical thinking skills to accomplish relevant job functions;
- Hybrid – in which part of the apprentice’s progress may be measured in hours and part may be measured through the demonstration of competency.
A key differentiation between apprenticeship and other forms of workforce training is that an apprenticeship program engages the learner as a paid employee from the start of the program. Although an apprentice’s wages may begin at a lower level those of incumbent workers (although not less than the minimum wage), his or her wages must increase as the individual progresses through the program, based on a schedule outlined in a written agreement between the employer and the apprentice.
What are the benefits of an apprenticeship program?
Companies are not required by law to register their apprenticeship programs, but those who do can demonstrate that their program has been reviewed by the Department of Labor or a State Apprenticeship Agency, and as such may have access to federal and state resources not made available to unregistered programs.
For example, an employer who registers his or her program:
- may receive partial reimbursement for an apprentice’s wages from Workforce Investment Opportunity Act funds,
- may be eligible for state-based tax credits; and
- may enable veterans to access their GI Bill benefits while completing an apprenticeship program.
For more information, see the Federal Resources Playbook.
Is Registered Apprenticeship right for my company?
Making the case for apprenticeship to company leaders is crucial. To demonstrate the value of apprenticeship, consider return on investment, including factors such as:
- labor savings,
- employee retention,
- human capital,
- training and overhead costs,
- wages, and
We have a few resources to help you decide if apprenticeship is the right choice for you.
- Considerations for Creating an Apprenticeship Program [available shortly]
- Advancing Apprenticeship as a Workforce Strategy: An Assessment and Planning Tool for the Public Workforce System [PDF]
Return on Investment
Apprenticeships can generate a return on investment of 10% – 33%.
- Rates of Return on Investments in Apprenticeships: Summary of the Empirical Evidence (March 2013) [PDF]
- The Benefits and Costs of Apprenticeship: A Business Perspective
How do I get started?
For a complete walk-through, browse our Employer Guide to Apprenticeship [coming soon], or the Department of Labor’s Quick-Start Toolkit [PDF].
One key step is to create a training curriculum, called a Work Process Schedule. You can see examples of work process schedules on our US Apprenticeships page.
For a limited set of occupations, employers can facilitate review by basing their apprenticeships on the National Occupational Frameworks (NOFs), developed by AIIA founder Robert Lerman, PhD, and Diane Auer Jones of the Urban Institute (also an AIIA board member).
Where can I get help?
- Develop curriculum;
- Select training providers;
- Provide actual training;
- Recruit apprentices;
- Help you identify external providers of related instruction;
- Establish an in-house program for related instruction; and
- Offer instruction directly.
Intermediaries vary in size, scope, experience, and cost structure. See the Employer Guide [coming soon] for more information on intermediaries.
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