Study shows how business apprenticeship programs can benefit companies and increase job opportunities

Business apprenticeshipsWhile the benefits of apprenticeships to those who participate in them are well known, there is little information on how these programs can improve the way businesses operate.

A recently released study, The Benefits and Costs of Apprenticeships: A Business Perspective, conducted by Case Western Reserve University and the U.S. Department of Commerce, however, highlights the benefits and analyzes the costs of business apprenticeship programs. And the case studies provided might inspire other companies to start their own programs. More apprenticeship programs will benefit those in reentry, who often have the ability but lack the training and skills to find well-paying employment.

Apprenticeships are no longer just about skilled trades and the construction industry. Health care, information technology, banking and other fields are successfully creating apprenticeship training programs to fill the rapidly growing need for skilled workers in those fields. The lack of skilled employees and its effect upon the economy is one of the reasons the Department of Commerce decided to do this study – and that companies are creating apprenticeship programs.

Study covered 13 companies

The study examined 13 businesses from a variety of occupations, industries and areas of the country that had ongoing apprenticeship programs. The shortest one studied lasted just one year, the longest more than four years.

In general, an apprenticeship involves paid on-the-job training, often with classroom instruction; and a mentor for each participant. It also offers certification to those who complete the program, indicating that they have the knowledge and training to do the job.

Reasons to create an apprenticeship program

There are several reasons why companies may want to create an apprenticeship program. These include to:

  • create a pipeline of skilled employees, who may be more loyal because of the training and opportunity they received.
  • be able to recruit better, more motivated employees.
  • train workers to the company’s specifications and develop future leaders.
  • improve worker productivity and the bottom line.
  • receive tax credits (in some states).

The cost to companies for administering the programs studied ranged from less than $25,000 to more than $250,000 per apprentice. But the economic return made it worth it, as indicated by two of the companies studied in depth.

The Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, NH, used apprenticeships to help expand and reorganize its services. The program trained medical assistants, the addition of whom helped reduce overtime and increase revenue from appointment bookings. The internal rate of return was at least 40 percent.

Siemens USA saw a 50 percent rate of return for its machinist apprenticeship program, which was created to fill the manufacturing capacity at its Charlotte, NC, plant. The plant makes and repairs generators for electric utilities.

How business apprenticeship program benefits are measured

According to the report, apprenticeship model benefits can be measured in three areas:

  • Production: They lead to increase in output and decrease in errors.
  • Workforce: They promote reduction in turnover and improvement in recruitment.
  • Soft skills: They help develop improved employee engagement, and a better ability by participants to solve problems, perform a variety of tasks and work independently.

Companies may use a variety of models, and which one they choose can drastically affect the cost of setting up a program. Among the possibilities are to work together with other companies, with community colleges and other educational institutions, with unions or with nonprofit organizations.

In order to be successful, companies must balance their own needs with the needs and aspirations of their potential apprentices. They need to also be aware of current employees, who must see the apprentices as team members who can help the company grow and prosper, rather than threatening competition.

Through apprenticeship program examples cited in the study, readers can get an idea of

  • the benefits of partnerships.
  • the strategy behind developing classroom training.
  • the best way to carry out on-the-job training, and
  • how to estimate the number of apprentices to hire.

One section of the study helps companies determine the costs and measurable benefits of an apprenticeship program. It also elaborates on improvements that have been made as a result.

A series of case studies give readers in-depth knowledge of how several companies carried out their apprenticeship programs. They include programs for training everyone from medical assistants, drug store managers, computer programmers and IT interface analysts to injection mold setters, tool and die makers, parts assemblers and quality technicians.

New ROI tool measures the benefits of apprenticeships

For those seriously interested in starting an apprenticeship program, the Economics and Statistics Division of the U. S. Department of Commerce has released the beta version of its new return-on-investment calculator to help business executives understand how a program could benefit their company. The calculator can help translate ideas into dollars and cents.

And as an initial step in the process of exploring the option of creating an apprenticeship program, using the calculator will help companies decide whether it makes sense to pursue the idea further.

Employers who are thinking about launching an apprenticeship program may also want to check out the Employer’s Playbook for Creating an Apprenticeship Program published by Dow, Alcoa and Siemens with support from the Manufacturing Institute.

Why ex-offenders should consider entering an apprenticeship program

apprenticeshipApprenticeships not only tend to be ex-offender friendly offering second chance employment, but they are also an excellent way to learn a set of skills that are in high demand among employers. And if you’re seriously determined to find a job, entering an apprenticeship may be the way to go.

In fact, there are statistics to back that up. Human resource consulting firm ManpowerGroup, in its 2016 Talent Shortage Survey, found that of more than 42,000 employers surveyed worldwide, 40 percent are finding difficulty filling job openings, the highest number since 2007. And for the fifth straight year, the hardest jobs to fill are skilled trades.

Top 10 jobs in terms of talent shortage
  1. Skilled trades
  2. IT staff
  3. Sales representatives
  4. Engineers
  5. Technicians
  6. Drivers
  7. Accounting and finance staff
  8. Management executives
  9. Machine operators
  10. Office staff

This fact, if nothing else, should encourage those leaving jail or prison to consider a career in the trades. But there are also other reasons, most notably that:

  • 91% of those completing an apprenticeship program gain employment.
  • The average starting wage for trade union jobs is above $60,000 per year.

Apprenticeship programs can appeal to those with a variety of skills and interests and be for jobs with titles that range from boilermaker or carpenter to meat cutter or sheet metal worker.

Although the programs may last from one to six years, the average length of an apprenticeship is four years. They combine on-the-job training with classroom instruction, during which participants may learn math, drafting, how to read blueprints and other skills necessary to perform a particular job. Apprentices are paid a wage – which usually starts at 35 percent to 50 percent of a full-time union job for that industry – and receive regular pay increases during the duration of the program.

How to find an apprenticeship program

There are hundreds of apprenticeship programs across the U.S., and to find out more about those in your area, you can visit your local American Job Center or search the Internet using search words like “union apprenticeship directory.”

The results that will come up may include directories of specific trade union groups, as well as directories put together by state government agencies. Here are a few examples:

California Department of Industrial Relations Division of Apprenticeship Standards

Indiana union construction industry

Maryland Apprenticeship and Training Program

Massachusetts building trade

Minnesota building and construction apprenticeship programs

Ohio Department of Job and Family Services apprenticeship directory

Washington Building Trades apprenticeship programs

The U.S. Department of Labor maintains a list of links to all state and U.S. territory programs.

Once you decide what type of trade you might be interested in, contact your local American Job Center or a specific union office or training center in your area for the details on what to do next. Taking that first step may lead you to a new career – and a new life beyond bars.


ApprenticeshipUSA grants to increase apprenticeship programs

ApprenticeshipUSAThose interested in apprenticeships may now have more opportunities than ever before, thanks to efforts by the U.S. Department of Labor to expand apprenticeship programs across the United States.

On October 21, the White House announced that the DOL has awarded more than $50 million in ApprenticeshipUSA State Expansion Grants. The applicants for these grants included state economic development and workforce agencies and technical college systems, among others.

The grants, ranging in amount from $700,000 to $2.7 million, are designed to:

  • Help states incorporate apprenticeships into their education and workforce systems.
  • Involve industry and other partners in expanding apprenticeships to new sectors and underserved worker populations.
  • Encourage and work with employers to create new programs.
  • Promote more diversity and inclusion in apprenticeship programs.

ApprenticeshipUSA State Expansion Grant recipients

Thirty-six agencies in states from Hawaii to New Hampshire received ApprenticeshipUSA State Expansion Grants to cover programs created with a variety of partners, plans and goals. Here are a few examples of the recipients and their plans for how they will use the grant money:

Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Juneau, Alaska

The department is using its $1,019,985 grant to fund the Healthy Alaska Through Apprenticeship project. This project will create healthcare apprenticeship opportunities that include jobs such as community healthcare worker and medical administrative assistant.

California Department of Industrial Relations, Oakland, California

The department was awarded an $1.8 million grant that will fund its Investing in California’s Future project. The goal is to double the number of registered apprenticeships during the next decade and encourage high-growth, non traditional industries – advanced manufacturing, transportation, information technology and healthcare – to develop apprenticeships.

Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, Tallahassee, Florida

The Florida ApprenticeshipUSA project, funded with a $1,498,269 grant, will create 2,500 new apprentices over 3-1/2 years. The public-private partnership will address the state’s critical demand for skilled and diverse workers in health services, construction, IT and manufacturing.

Iowa Workforce Development, Des Moines, Iowa

Using its $1.8 million grant, the Iowa Workforce Development agency has launched the Innovative Opportunities with Apprenticeships (IOWA) project. It plans to target underserved populations – ex-offenders, individuals with disabilities, minorities, women and out-of-school youth – who will be able to receive training in such nontraditional sectors as cyber security, IT, health care and business services.

Illinois Department of Commerce and Opportunity, Chicago, Illinois

With a $1.3 million grant to fund its Illinois Apprenticeship Plus System, the department plans to increase opportunities for women, people of color and individuals transitioning from incarceration, among others, in the transportation, manufacturing, healthcare and distribution, and logistics industries.

Indiana Department of Workforce Development, Indianapolis, Indiana

The department will work with partners that include the Indiana Department of Corrections, Ivy Tech Community College and representatives of industry to expand registered apprenticeships statewide with its $1.3 million grant.

Louisiana Workforce Commission, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

The commission’s Expanding Opportunities Today to Meet Tomorrows Needs project received a $1.55 million grant. It will use the money to double the number of registered apprentices in the state, as well as develop pre-apprenticeship training programs.

Thousands of new apprenticeships on the horizon

With these and many other projects in the works, there will be thousands of new apprenticeships coming up in the next few years.

As a result, those looking for a stable, well paid career with paid training and who qualify should have an increasing number of opportunities. These opportunities will not only come in traditional industries like construction and transportation, but in work sectors, including IT and high-tech manufacturing, that haven’t employed many apprentices in the past.


New guide helps manufacturers create apprenticeship programs

ApprenticeshipProgramManualCoverU.S. Manufacturers are facing a serious shortage of skilled workers. Many applicants just don’t seem to have the skills necessary to produce the increasingly sophisticated products that American factories are creating.

While some companies are teaming up with community colleges and other partners to create training and apprenticeship programs, there seems to be far too few of them

Three major corporations – Dow, Alcoa and Siemens – have decided to help solve the problem by joining forces to create a coalition to build regional apprenticeship models that bring together employers and community colleges.

And together with The Manufacturing Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, they’ve also published the Employer’s Playbook for Building an Apprenticeship Program to teach other companies how to do it themselves.

This 115-page book serves as a how-to guide that companies of any size can use to help build a workforce-ready talent pipeline in communities across the country.

Readers are taken step by step through the process of establishing an apprenticeship program. The nine chapters cover everything from workforce planning and establishing public-private partnerships to selecting apprenticeship program participants and transitioning apprentices into permanent employment.

The book includes an extensive array of templates, tools, project plans and worksheets and tons of tips and advice that are useful to any company that might be interested in creating an apprenticeship program of their own. There are also links to a wide range of other resources that include everything from the Department of Labor and the National Governor’s Association to the National Association of Workforce Boards.

The playbook will also serve as an important resource for manufacturers and their partners who are interested in the U.S. Department of Labor’s American Apprenticeship Grants competition that is now open for applications.

These grants – up to $100 million in total – will be given to public-private partnerships that will include a combination of manufacturers as well as community colleges, nonprofits, unions and training organizations. The grants are being financed by the fees that employers pay to hire foreign workers to come work in the U.S. under the H-1B nonimmigrant visa program.

The goals of the grant competition are to:

  • Expand apprenticeship programs into high growth industries and occupations, especially those for which foreign workers on H-1B visas are hired.
  • Use apprenticeships to create new career pathways.
  • Offer more apprenticeship opportunities to job seekers and workers, especially those from groups that are underrepresented in traditional apprenticeship programs.

And with all the new training programs that will result from these grants, more Americans – including hopefully some who were formerly incarcerated – will be claiming some of those jobs currently being held by H-1B workers. At least that appears to be the goal.


Pre-apprenticeship programs provide career path entry

Engineer Teaching Apprentice To Use Milling MachineThe trades are said to be ex-offender friendly and not only provide solid wages and benefits but also offer a career path to follow. The best way to get into a trade is through an apprenticeship program, and the best way to get into an apprenticeship program is through a pre-apprenticeship program.

Although there are a number of steps that you must take, if you do a decent job may be at the end of the road. The first step, a pre-apprenticeship program, is an educational program that prepares people to be ready to apply for a registered apprenticeship program.

Participants in these programs receive in-class and hands-on training that will help them develop educational and work-related skills that may make them more likely to be accepted into an apprenticeship. They will be able to improve their literacy, math and English skills, and be trained in such work-readiness habits as showing up on time and following instructions. They will also get a head start on career-specific training.

Pre-apprenticeship programs exist for quite a few blue-collar fields, including carpentry, construction, medic, pipe fitter and culinary trades.

These programs are sponsored by a variety of nonprofit organizations, unions and community colleges. The community college programs require tuition, but scholarships may be available and some pre-apprenticeship programs are covered by grants.

Currently there is no national directory of programs that we know of, although several organizations have tried to create one.

The best way to find out about a pre-apprenticeship program in your area is to contact your local American Job Center (formerly known as One-Stop Career Center).

Here are a few links to give you an idea of what’s out there. 

Washington State Programs

The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries maintains a section on their website with links to a variety of pre-apprenticeship programs, including school and nonprofit based, as well as a program for Native Americans.

Maine Pre-Apprenticeship Program

The state of Maine offers a high-school level pre-apprenticeship program that combines one or two years of academics with 1,000 hours of on-the-job training during 11th and/or 12th grades. Those completing the program can enter an apprenticeship.

Building California Construction Careers

This site has links to pre-apprenticeship programs throughout California that are related to the construction industry.

Rhode Island Marine Trades Pre-Apprenticeship Programs

The Rhode Island Marine Trades Association offers a free six-week Pre-Apprenticeship Training Program that teaches such skills as painting, varnishing, rigging, forklift operation and other things needed to gain employment in the yacht and boat-building industry.

Washington, D.C., Pre-Apprenticeship Green Construction Program

Operated by Catholic Charities of Washington, D.C. this program is open to residents of D.C. and Maryland and teaches solar installation, sustainable building, weatherization and other things workers need to know to be employed in the field of green construction.

North Carolina Pre-Apprenticeship Program

This site offers a contact number for the state’s pre-apprenticeship program.

Hawaii Pre-Apprenticeship Construction Training Program

This program, operated by the Building Industry Association of Hawaii gives participants an overview of the construction trades and prepares them for entry-level positions in the workforce and in apprenticeship programs.


Pre-apprenticeship programs offer opportunities to ex-offenders

Students prepare for jobs and apprenticeships at Constructing Hope, a Portland, Ore., nonprofit organization.

An apprenticeship in the trades is one of the best ways to enter a well-paying career, but many ex-offenders find it difficult to figure out how to get into apprenticeship programs. It may not be easy, but it can be done with the help of a few organizations and initiatives around the country that were created to get people into apprenticeship programs.

While there are not as many of these programs as job developers and others working with ex-offenders would like there to be, a few examples will give an idea of how they work and the opportunities they provide.

Constructing Hope

Constructing Hope in Portland, Ore. offers pre-apprenticeship training for ex-offenders and people with low incomes, teaching them the skills they will need for work as carpenters, electricians, plumbers or laborers.

The organization conducts three nine-week classes per year, and the current class consists of 60 percent ex-offenders, lower than the usual 70 percent, according to Patricia Daniels, the organization’s executive director. Constructing Hope does outreach to area prisons and reentry programs to recruit students. It focuses on males, because a similar program operated by another organization, Oregon Tradeswomen, offers a seven-week, women-only pre-apprenticeship class.

Not only do students learn various skills, but they also learn how to enter an apprenticeship and such essential skills as being able to get to things on time. “Our class starts at 6:30 a.m. If you can’t get to class at 6:30, you won’t be able to get to work at 5:30,” says Daniels. If students miss more than two days of class, they have to start the program all over again.

Last year, 50 people graduated from the pre-apprenticeship training. Of these, 37 went directly into jobs, and the other 11 entered apprenticeship programs.

Cypress Mandela

Oakland, Calif.’s Cypress Mandela, named after a street that collapsed during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, was originally founded in 1993 to provide training and jobs for rebuilding damaged freeways.

Since then, some 2,500 people have been trained and placed into a variety of trades. About 150 students go through the nonprofit’s training programs each year, 20 percent of whom are women and 60 percent of whom are ex-offenders.

“We partner with faith-based organizations and work with Oakland’s Private Industry Council and probation department and (Oakland) district attorney (Nancy) O’Malley and also with San Francisco and Contra Costa County, (to recruit ex-offenders),” says Arthur Shanks, Cypress Mandela’s executive director.

The organization offers a variety of training programs, one of which began last year in collaboration with Pacific Gas & Electric Co. Cypress Mandela conducts a nine-week lineman program and a six-week gas program. Once the students complete one of these, they’re placed into a job at PG&E.

Other Cypress Mandela training programs prepare students for apprenticeships. “If a student completes a 16-week program with us, they will go directly into the carpenter’s apprenticeship,” says Shanks, citing one example.

CEO Academy

New York-headquartered CEO, the Center for Employment Opportunities, a nonprofit offering ex-offenders job-readiness training, employment opportunities and placement services, operates CEO Academy, which prepares people for work in the trades. It offers two types of training – pre-placement training and post-placement trades training.

The pre-placement training graduates 375 people per year from its two-day to five-day programs that teach participants warehouse/forklift operation, OSHA rules, scaffolding training, computer literacy and sanitation.

The post-placement trades training in carpentry, plumbing and electrical skills enrolls about 80 participants each year and graduates 50. This training lasts eight months and takes place two evenings per week. After completion, participants receive hands-on training in their selected trade at Hostos Community College in the Bronx. Only 10 percent of the participants in both programs are women.

The students work together with the staff to determine the direction they will take. “The training staff evaluates each participant who has an interest in training and matches the participants with the right training opportunity,” says Alberto Gutierrez, the academy’s director of participant training.

“For training in the trades (carpentry, plumbing, electrical), interested participants must take a TABE (Test of Adult Basic Education) test and a trade assessment, and a final interview is conducted by the training director to set program and participation expectations for the prospective student.”

CEO has a unique approach to how it handles its program participation. All students are required to work at paid employment. Upon completion of the organization’s five-day Life Skills Training, participants are eligible to work on the CEO’s transitional job sites, where they do light maintenance work seven hours per day for minimum wage. They do that for up to four days a week and spend the day(s) not on the job site in the CEO office receiving job coaching.

“For our participants who are recently released from prison or jail, this puts them back to work immediately, which puts money in their pockets, covering public transportation, living expenses and the ability to purchase interview attire,” says Gutierrez. “This is also what parole wants to see of men and women coming back home.

CEO Academy also offers a six- to eight-week sanitation-training program in which participants are paid to work 40 to 60 hours per week for the nonprofit’s partner employer, Action Carting of Newark, N.J.

For more information about the nonprofits in this article, visit their websites at: