Coming from an internship or apprenticeship program myself I have only positive things to say about them. It showed me every aspect of the insurance industry and enabled me to save me years of trying to figure that out myself.
Qualified job candidates can be difficult to find in industries that require highly skilled employees. Instead of endlessly searching for qualified job candidates, you can implement an apprenticeship program, allowing you to train beginning workers, which can benefit both them and your company. Apprenticeships combine on-the-job training with practical and theoretical education for skilled occupations.
The popularity and need for apprenticeship programs is growing in the United States, and some programs are being built based on the German model of giving high school students the opportunity to combine classroom time and hands-on, job-based learning. Apprenticeships can combine on-the-job training with secondary or post-secondary classes, or the apprenticeship can be built to include the classroom training component at a program training center, in an on-site classroom or with online courses.
Industries in which apprenticeships are used include skilled trades such as electricians, plumbers, machinists and builders that have traditionally used hands-on education, but apprenticeships can also effectively train employees in nursing, pharmacy, IT and many other fields. According to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), there are currently more than a thousand occupations that use apprenticeships.
Why Implement an Apprenticeship Program?
Employers can sponsor apprenticeship programs in an effort to recruit, train and retain employees with the necessary skills for their industries. Apprenticeship programs can be sponsored by individual employers, joint employer and labor groups, or employer associations.
If your company is struggling to find and recruit skilled workers, an apprenticeship program might be right for you. As you train workers, you can fill open positions in your company and prepare for the retirement of older workers. Apprenticeships typically last one to six years; during this time, your apprentices will be completing work as well as learning, and, at the end of the apprenticeships, you will have fully trained employees on your payroll.
Employing apprentices also increases productivity and ensures a high quality of work because your employees will be properly trained in the trade. An apprenticeship program can also lessen turnover and related costs by building employees’ loyalty to you because of your commitment to their education.
Additionally, apprenticeships can bolster your company’s reputation in the community, especially if your program partners with a local educational institution.
Starting an Apprenticeship Program
Here are a few areas to consider as you develop your apprenticeship program:
State and federal laws. Apprenticeship programs must comply with applicable state and federal laws. In addition, some industries have management or labor organizations that set standards and supervise apprenticeship training. Make sure you understand and are in compliance with laws and regulations before you implement your program.
Pay. Apprentices are generally defined by the Fair Labor Standards Act as workers who are at least 16 years old and have signed an agreement to learn a skilled trade. Apprentices can be paid subminimum wages, although states may have laws regarding the number of working hours allowed and the minimum wages required.
Typically, apprentices begin at a pay rate that is a third to a half of the wages received by professional skilled workers. As the apprentice learns, his or her wages should increase; in some cases, laws mandate certain increases at various intervals of time, such as a pay increase at six months. In addition, if the apprentice performs the work of a professional, such as during a shortage of your regular skilled professional workers, he or she must typically be paid the wages owed a professional.
Written agreement. A written agreement will specify how the apprenticeship works, how long it will last, what the pay rates are and what work qualifies for pay. Having a written agreement clarifies the terms of the apprenticeship for both you and the apprentice.
Registered Apprenticeships. The DOL’s Employment and Training Administration offers a national system of Registered Apprenticeships. If you implement a registered program, the Office of Apprenticeship will work with you to design a training program and curriculum that fits your business, and they will help connect you with job seekers in your industry. In addition, you may qualify for state tax benefits. For more information, visit www.doleta.gov/oa/employer.cfm.
If your company and industry are struggling to find qualified skilled workers, an apprenticeship program might be the answer to recruitment and retention problems. If you would like help putting an internship program together contact your GDP Advisor at 800-473-8697.