By Nicholas Wyman. Apprenticeships are are hot topic at the White House. A lot is in the works for these types of programs. So, if you don’t want to miss the boat, here’s how to steer your company’s first apprenticeship program to take advantage of federal support – and you won’t need to go it alone. So, what’s the big deal about apprenticeships, the learn-while-you-earn programs that prepare a talent pipeline for companies of all sizes? They feature in-built mentoring that develops apprentices’ credentials, and the training is customized to what employers need. Apprenticeships also help workers to earn $300,000 more (including benefits) over their work-life compared to their peers who didn’t graduate from college, according to a Mathematica study.
What’s happening now
The Biden Administration is expected to create about one million new apprenticeship opportunities assuming the passage of the bipartisan National Apprenticeship Act of 2021. Recently, the president stopped accepting and reviewing new or pending applications from entities keen to start an industry-recognized apprenticeship program, a system that began in 2017. The White House says such programs would “threaten to undermine registered apprenticeship programs”. And, thanks to the Biden Administration’s focus on diversity, we should expect apprenticeship programs to open doors for women, and people of color, in traditionally white-male sectors such as construction and the building trades. In early April, the president announced he’d allocate $48 million towards workforce development, through pre-apprenticeship and new registered apprenticeship programs. These hinge on his $2-trillion-plus infrastructure and climate plan, with another plan due out soon, too. The diversity focus means the president is making it easier for companies to tap into the benefits of a more diverse workforce. Even the World Economic Forum highlights the benefits of diversity and inclusion. These include higher revenue and innovation levels, being more attractive to millennial and female workers, as well as being able to meld different perspectives into the way the business operates. It’s all part of the American Jobs Plan.
Want to take part?
It’s convenient for employers experiencing skills shortages in IT, sales, and marketing, and skilled trades such as construction, manufacturing, and engineering, according to this ManpowerGroup research. Consider evolving technology in the automotive sector as the need for electric vehicles rises. Other industries in demand, and ideal for apprenticeship programs, are fast-moving consumer goods, healthcare tech, and the pharmaceutical industry. Employers don’t have to start from scratch to create their own apprenticeship program. There’s a ton of knowledge, best practices, and experience to tap into. I’m sharing mine from my years of US and Australian know-how here now. For example, Australia introduced non-trade apprenticeships 40 years ago, and there are now more of them than trade apprenticeships. Also, many apprenticeship programs are conducted remotely.
Showing you the money
There is money out there to support your business to kick start its apprenticeship program. You’ll need to check with the state you operate in because there’s a different apprenticeship registration process for each. That may create challenges when you’re trying to set up a program, but you’ll see below a bulleted list on how to tackle that. Keep an ear out for what the new federal administration is doing about funding. I’m putting my money on them considering system-wide funding instead of project-by-project for each apprentice an employer takes on. Currently, the system is focused on sweeteners to help employers with tuition, extra training, etc., at apprenticeship commencement. The federal administration may shift the focus – partly or fully – to financial incentives at apprenticeship completion rather than starts.
Five steps to start
Your first step to creating your apprenticeship program is the official US government apprenticeships’ website. It spells out the process to develop your program:
- Check out this list of available apprenticeship categories for inspiration
2. Explore how others in your region, sector, or industry are harnessing apprenticeships 3. Tap into the government’s advisory services to sketch out your program 4. Work with educators, workforce organizations, and apprenticeship representatives to flesh it out, and 5. Register the program and ask for funding, then launch it. Partnering with a workforce intermediary organization lets you tap into discounts, savings (from their economies of scale), and outsourcing your apprentice recruitment and management.
What to avoid
Quite simply, avoid starting your program from scratch and going it alone. There are many cost-effective ways to use apprenticeships to fill your talent pipeline. You might also be thinking ‘short-range’ with the uncertainty COVID-19 creates for our economy. Yes, an apprenticeship program requires commitment, but it’s in line with your business growth and sustainability strategies. As well, don’t assume your current, experienced staff can jump into mentoring without training. Mentoring draws on a skillset that includes:
- Patience, trust, and communication ability
- Inducting apprentices
- Demystifying the unwritten codes of your workplace culture
- Tweaking approaches to differentiate teaching and instruction (not all learners are the same, so one-size-fits-all training won’t necessarily work)
- Time management
- Knowing how to break down a task into chunks and demonstrate the method
- Fielding apprentices’ questions
- Giving prompt constructive feedback on their work
- Engaging in joint problem-solving, and
- Inspiring their thinking with open and reflective questions
Keep in mind, mentors will spend up to a third of their time supervising and working with the apprentice. You can reduce your mentors’ time by using a workforce intermediary organization and online learning management system (very handy for induction).
Your next move
Take up the challenge to introduce your own apprentice program – start small. Over time you’ll enjoy the benefits many other employers have – productivity, filling specific skills gaps through customizable training, fostering new leaders, earning plaudits from customers, and lowering your firm’s turnover rate.