New Report Contributes to Conversation on Industry-led Apprenticeship

In June 2017, President Trump signed an executive order that will cut back the federal government’s role in creating and monitoring apprenticeship programs. The idea is to encourage businesses and trade groups to design programs with less oversight from federal regulators, benefitting more workers.

The president’s 2017 order would double the amount of money for apprenticeship grants, from $90 million to nearly $200 million a year, principally funded through H-1B visa fees.*

Apprenticeships in Healthcare

Once thought impossible, healthcare apprenticeships are a growing trend across the nation, including among members of the National Fund’s CareerSTAT network such as Fairview Health Services of Minnesota.

At a Washington, DC event on February 20 to mark the release of the new report, Laura Beeth, vice president for talent acquisition and management at Fairview, appeared on an employer panel to discuss her organization’s talent needs and how apprenticeships meet demand. Fairview Health is a CareerSTAT Frontline Healthcare Worker Champion organization.

You can read more about Beeth and how Fairview is adopting apprenticeship to tackle the need for nurses with bachelor’s degrees here.

A new publication by Opportunity America and the Urban Institute, “Industry-Driven Apprenticeship: What Works, What’s Needed,” reflects on the state of independent, industry-driven apprenticeship programs in the context of President Trump’s apprenticeship recommendations, which would increase in number under the executive order. These employer-sponsored programs would not be registered with the U.S. Department of Labor, but rather, validated by an industry accreditor as an Industry Recognized Apprenticeship Program.

Even as apprenticeship is gaining traction across industries, the fact is many employers do not understand how apprenticeship programs work, as the new report explains. As a result, businesses turn to third-party entities such as industry groups, nonprofit organizations, or community colleges to organize them. To ensure the quality of industry-led apprenticeships, the report proposes the creation of standardized frameworks for individual occupations. With a structured curriculum that blends classroom and practical, on-the-job training, these frameworks would be made widely available for employers, industries, and sectors to use in designing apprenticeships.

As the new report suggests, having a clear and consistent definition for apprenticeship would not only guide investments, policy, and evaluation, but also provide much-needed clarity for employers, workers, and students.

The Apprenticeship Forward Collaborative, a network of national organizations committed to expanding American apprenticeship through research, public engagement, and on-the-ground innovation, is attempting to do just that.

Informed by the collective experience of the members of Apprenticeship Forward (which includes the National Fund), quality apprenticeships – including both industry-recognized and registered programs – share these core characteristics:

  • Paid, structured, productive on-the-job training combined with related classroom instruction;
  • Clearly defined wage structure with increases commensurate with skill gains or credential attainment;
  • High-quality third-party evaluation of program content, apprenticeship structure, mentorship components, and standards to meet business demand and worker need; and,
  • Ongoing assessment of skills development culminating in an industry-recognized credential and full-time employment.

Further, Apprenticeship Forward lays out the following set of principles for expanding quality apprenticeship:

  • Be led by strong business demand
  • Advance the livelihood of U.S. workers
  • Include partnerships between local businesses, the workforce and education systems, human services organizations, labor and labor management, and other community-based organizations
  • Be accessible to new and current workers and support the success of a diverse pipeline of apprentices
  • Align with K-12 and postsecondary education to support lifelong learning and skill attainment.

It remains to be seen how industry-recognized apprenticeships would work or how they would be regulated, but adopting standards and principles will help to ensure the creation of quality apprenticeship that benefit employers and workers, whether federally-registered or industry-led.


*Editor’s Note: Recent reporting from POLITICO suggests that the future of this initiative may be in doubt.

Dr. Pam Howze

-- Director, Work-Based Learning, National Fund for Workforce Solutions