Consider an apprenticeship program to fill your talent pipeline

Apprenticeships are getting another look because of the substantial gap between the training and education America’s college graduates receive and the market demands for skilled labor. 

“There’s a resurgence in their use, largely because of support from governors, state legislators, and higher education leaders who see the success of apprenticeships in preparing students to join the workforce and contribute to the economy,” says Starr Sherman, manager of Cuyahoga Community College’s Manufacturing Technology Center of Excellence. 

President Barack Obama made apprenticeships a priority, directing millions of dollars to support the programs, and President Donald Trump signed an executive order to increase the federal funding that currently supports the Apprenticeship Ohio initiative grant.

Smart Business spoke with Sherman about apprenticeships and how they benefit employers and employees alike.

What do apprenticeships offer that other training programs might not?

Apprenticeships offer students an alternative pathway to college for those seeking to avoid expensive tuition and loans. Apprentices who complete their programs secure employment at high rates and regularly earn family-sustaining wages.

The programs also offer employers opportunities to curate their own talent pipeline and customize training to their specific needs so future employees know their equipment and processes. And the earn-while-you-learn component keeps students engaged throughout the process to earn a state registered journeyman certification for national recognition as an expert in their industry.

Additionally, apprenticeships are gaining traction outside of the manufacturing and construction industries. Today, apprenticeships are being used successfully in IT and health care, and are getting interest from other industries as well. 

What should companies understand about these programs before starting one?

Apprenticeships are a commitment among an employer, the apprentice and the authorized training provider — they’re relationships that usually carry on for four years. Further, apprenticeships require each employer to give their apprentice a broad exposure to the demands of the industry, offering a designated number of on-the-job training hours completing various tasks under the supervision of a certified journeyman to meet state requirements, all while meticulously tracking their professional progress. 

Employers should also understand that as apprentices progress in their training and skills, they should also receive incremental pay increases. Once they receive their journeyman certification, if they are not receiving industry-standard pay, the company may lose them to other eager employers offering higher wages. 

How can area colleges help?

Employers and colleges benefit from forming complementary relationships around apprenticeship training and upcoming industry trends. Through these arrangements, employers provide the on-the-job training, while colleges provide the related technical instruction (RTI) or education. State-approved colleges can both provide the required RTI and sponsor apprentices. Colleges approved by the state to sponsor apprentices also manage the administrative aspect of the program, including tracking and maintaining all of the paperwork so employers can focus on running their businesses. Additionally, colleges that participate in federally funded programs such as Apprenticeship Ohio receive Department of Labor grant funding that offers up to $2,500 to offset the cost of a student’s first year in the apprenticeship, saving employers the cost of the first year of training. 

When choosing a college to partner with on an apprenticeship program, look for an institution with a reputation for apprenticeships — an institution that has managed the paperwork and has had success with grant awards.

Apprenticeships offer a unique opportunity to invest in the next-generation workforce. It’s a chance to train potential employees on specific equipment and fill the talent pipeline to stay competitive.

Insights Education is brought to you by Cuyahoga Community College.