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Recently, a colleague shared with me the Urban Institute's March 2009 report, "The Benefits and Challenges of Registered Apprenticeship: The Sponsors' Perspective," which was commissioned by ETA. I hadn't stumbled across it before, and was glad to find it.  It offers a great illustration of the many benefits of Registered Apprenticeship - from the credible perspective of actual program sponsors - and, perhaps more importantly, offers insight into key opportunities the public workforce system has to engage with and support Registered Apprenticeship programs.

Some key findings from the report:

  • Registered Apprenticeship enjoys strong support from program sponsors - nearly 9 out of 10 sponsors would strongly recommend Registered Apprenticeship to others.
  • Program completion rates reported by sponsors were very high.
  • Sponsors most often use current employees to recruit new apprentices, with the second most cited recruitment source being community colleges and public technical schools.  Interestingly, the One-Stop Career Center system, along with unions, were the least cited recruitment source.
  • Sponsors' interactions with the public workforce system were quite limited.  While nearly 30 percent of sponsors said that they had had at least one interaction with the system, only 17 percent reported that they had used a One-Stop to post apprenticeship openings and only 16 percent reported that they they had received applicants referred by the workforce system.
  • At the same time, many sponsors indicated that they need help in finding and screening applicants.
These findings tell me that those of us in the workforce system have a real opportunity to improve our outreach to and engagement with Registered Apprenticeship programs, and to fill a critical recruitment and screening gap - a key component of our core business!

If you haven't yet read the report, you can access it here.  I think it makes a compelling case for the strengths and successes of Registered Apprenticeship programs, and really demonstrates why Registered Apprenticeship should be leveraged as a key talent development strategy within the public workforce system.

Before I get into the main focus of this blog, I'd like to take a moment to share with you the reason why I am dressed in black from head to toe today.  I will be saying goodbye to an important figure in Louisiana's apprenticeship community.  He was the apprenticeship coordinator for the Plumbers and Pipefitters Local Union 247 in Alexandria, Louisiana for thirty one years.

Let me repeat that just in case you overlooked that number.  31 YEARS. 

I don't know about you, but I haven't come across that many people who dedicate themselves to one cause for that amount of time.  For many in my generation, it's almost unfathomable to work for the same employer for ten years, much less thirty one.   Not only did this gentleman work for the same organization for that length of time (actually longer - he started as a welding instructor in '73), he dedicated his entire life to it.  He believed in the opportunities his organization was able to provide its members, and he always went above and beyond to develop apprentices into high skilled journeyman.

Therefore, I dedicate this little blog to you, Johnny Gypin.  You will be missed by many, but your impact on the lives you touched throughout your stay here will not. 

***************

A few weeks ago, the powers-that-be behind this apprenticeship community website asked me if I would mind reading this "article" and blogging about it.  I thought - Sure, why not?  I didn't have a particularly inspired subject already prepared anyway.  The best I had come up with was "A Day in the Life of a State Director" which I personally found hilarious, but perhaps for the general public - not so much. 

Note to Self:  Never accept an assignment without knowing the details first.

Here's a little bit of background.  I am a regular blogger here, and I am supposed to blog at least once a month.  My blog should have been submitted last week.  Well, when I went to open this "article" that had been previously emailed to me (I had about 30 minutes to work on it), I realized that it was forty five pages long. No pictures, no charts or graphs, just forty five straight pages of text. Call me crazy, but I am of the opinion that an "article" is a few pages in length - not forty five.  Forty five equals a Master's thesis.  Needless to say, I didn't even attempt to begin it last week.  Today, after finally carving out some time to tackle this project, it has taken me a considerable amount of time to absorb the thesis and its contents well enough to blog about it.

This white paper/thesis/report by the Center for American Progress (herein referred to as "The Center") entitled "Working Learners - Educating Our Entire Workforce for Success in the 21st Century" turned out to be an interesting read.  As one might ascertain from the title of it, this is focused on working learners, who they are, what they need, and how we are failing them from a workforce development system perspective.  Their definition of a "working learner" is an adult who has already entered the workforce but needs additional education to get ahead.  The concern is that not enough is being done to get this population the education and training they so desperately need.  The Center wants to take President Obama's Pell Grant and unemployment assistance initiatives a few steps further to rectify it.

Now, I could go into a long, drawn out summary of this white paper, but a summary of a forty five page document can't exactly be summed up in a paragraph or two, not adequately, anyway.  In the spirit of saving valuable time, I'll cut out a lot of the data, footnotes, and examples that an adequate summary would include, and give you the big picture. 

THE BIG PICTURE SUMMARY:

Our system sucks. 

Any questions?

Okay, okay!  I'll give you a little more than that.  Our post secondary educational system in this country is, for the most part (and excluding our treasured Registered Apprenticeship programs), not designed to serve the working adult well.  It's getting better, but it's a slowly developing process.  Four year colleges and universities are the biggest culprits, who cater more to young, full time students.  Our workforce development system, and in particular WIA, is supposed to act as a gateway to training and educational opportunities for working learners, but unfortunately only about 40% of WIA funds are spent on training, with the balance spent on job placements.  WIA is set up in such a way that the program is very cumbersome to navigate when trying to deliver opportunities for adults that need to upgrade their skills and earn a living at the same time.

Given that most of you who might be reading my drivel are probably familiar with registered apprenticeship, this information is not exactly news.  Most of us are intimately familiar with WIA shortcomings, which make our efforts to integrate registered apprenticeship with the program sometimes difficult.  If you're not familiar with them, then read this report - it is an eye opener. 

As I started reading it, I kept looking for and expecting the words "Registered Apprenticeship" or even just "apprenticeship" to pop up on every page, because as we all know, Registered Apprenticeship is the premier solution to the plight of working learners, or those that aspire to be in this category.  Not that I'm biased, of course.  I kept reading, and reading, and reading, and finally found the word "apprenticeship" mentioned in passing on page 32. Page 32?!  In addition, "Registered Apprenticeship" was never mentioned, and the word "apprenticeship" was found in four places.  That's it, folks, four.  Here you have an entire report on working learners, and Registered Apprenticeship is barely recognized or referred to?  There is something seriously wrong with this picture. 

The report does provide some great ideas about how to promote, provide funding, and amend WIA and Pell Grant regulations in order to make it easier for adults to access the training/education and skills upgrades they may need to stay competitive in the job market and make a decent living.  This includes providing flexible financial assistance, long term career coaching, and educational institutions finally adapting their services to the needs of working learners.  Shortcomings aside, this is a report that gives an excellent overview of the current landscape for working learners, and very interesting and thoughtful suggestions for overcoming the roadblocks that working learners face.  Check it out.

 

 

Mike's Story
Posted on July 20, 2009 by Kristen Ayres
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MIKE’S STORY

Contributed by Stephen Mandes, Executive Director, National Institute for Metalworking Skills, Inc (NIMS)

 This is about a young man overcoming adversity.   Let’s call him Mike.

 

Mike was a youth incarcerated in an adult prison in Minnesota as a felony offender.  Mike enrolled in the NIMS-MPowered Program, a youthful apprenticeship program funded by the U. S. Department of Labor through the National Institute for Metalworking Skills(NIMS) and delivered at Stillwater Prison by Hennepin Technical College and HIRED.

 

Mike earned three NIMS Level I manufacturing credentials during his Stillwater training.

Joe Fredkove at Hennepin Technical College was meeting with employers on Mike’s behalf, and that is no easy job in the midst of a recession.  Joe asked one particular metalworking company if they would simply help Mike out by conducting an ”informational” interview with him with the understanding the company had no openings.

 

Mike did such a good job of convincing the employer that he was motivated that he was capable and hungry to work that the company offered him a part time temporary job.  Mike accepted the part time offer and within three months proved himself to where the company promoted him to a fulltime, regular job with benefits and a salary increase.  He is now on a career path in metal stamping.

 

But Mike’s challenges were not over.  There was the matter of getting to work and for Mike that meant the public bus line.  Picture Minnesota in the dead of winter with a 20 minute walk to and from the bus.  Mike’s positive attitude to the world of work, to his employer and to his fellow employees is such that on very cold days, his co-workers would drive him to the bus stop on their breaks.

 

The company says that Mike’s enthusiasm is such that he has positively impacted other employees in his unit.

 

 

Tough Times Require Innovative Strategies:

Bayless Middle Apprenticeship Project

 

As federal funding for schools becomes less available and the politicians in Washington, DC require more accountability, school districts are reaching out to non-traditional partners to assist them in solving problems. One such example is the partnership between the Special School District of St. Louis County (SSD), Bayless School District (BSD), and the St. Louis Floor Layers Joint Apprenticeship Program (FLJAP). Herein, the FLJAP modeled the Middle College Experience promoted by the Gates Foundation in an attempt to curtail the high school drop-out rate.

 

The Bayless Middle Apprenticeship Project (MAP) is a two-year program that allows 11th and 12th grade high school students to complete the related studies of their apprenticeship as part of their secondary career and technical education experience. Courses are delivered by a FLJAP-approved instructor. Students who elect to work their junior/senior summer do so as US-DOL Office of Apprenticeship registered apprentices. However, a three-way contract is signed by students, parents, and the contractors to ensure students will return for their senior year in the fall. Upon high school graduation, students are provided direct entry into the trade. With only four years of OJE hours to accumulate, students fulfill their related training requirements during this time by attending Ivy Technical College for a series of online courses. Upon graduating from the FLJAP, apprentices receive their US-DOL Journeyworker certificate and an Associate’s degree.

 

To date, studies have shown that MAP students perform better than their peers, as follows:

MAP Students                   Bayless Students (Random Control Group)

Absenteeism                     5.6 days                                8 days (2007-08)

Increase in GPA                31%                                       -3%

 


 

A Message from Jennifer Murphy, Our Featured Apprentice

 

It’s been five years of apprenticeship, and I’m done, I’m done, I’m done!!!

Over the past year I’ve been fond of telling the guys in my class that if the apprenticeship were high school we’d be Super-Seniors!  If it were college we’d be on our way to a Masters degree. 

When I started the apprenticeship program the five years stretched out in front of me and although I knew logically that the time would pass, on a gut level it felt like I’d be an apprentice FOREVER. 

But, as they say: a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. 

I won’t say that the days flew by.  There were some very real challenges along the way.  Apprenticeship is demanding and tough, but the days go by and eventually you look back and realize that you’ve settled in, set your pace, and you’re making steady progress.  It’s like hiking on a ridge; not necessarily easy, but you can see where you’ve come from and where you’re going. 

If you are in construction like me you can plan on waking up and getting out of bed sore and tired every day, and hitting the road so early that you wonder which of the few other cars on the freeway are on their way to their construction jobs and which are on their way home from wild nights out.  When you stop somewhere for coffee in the morning - even though you’re practically sleepwalking - you still recognize which of your fellow early risers are in the trades by their boots and orange t-shirts or vests, and you nod and smile hello every day until one of your morning routines varies due to a layoff, a new job-site, or a new start-time.  You get to work and you face the day and if you try even a little bit you learn everything you need to know. 

Of course you learn about the tools, and the blue prints.  You pick up on the little secrets and strategies that allow you to do your work quickly and efficiently.  You develop an eye for problems that can be avoided by running your work thoughtfully.  You notice things like receptacles that the prints show in the middle of a window and you save your boss money and headaches when you realize the architects forgot to account for voltage drop on a long circuit, or when you notice that the electrical panels delivered to the job site don’t have the right arc-fault rating, and you deal with these little bumps before they turn into hurdles.

Perhaps equally important, you learn diplomacy and job-site courtesy.  With hundreds of guys from dozens of trades (not to mention inspectors, investors, fire chiefs, etc) in and out of job-sites, there are countless brushes with conflict.  Everyone is there to earn a buck, and some guys see any impediment to their own task as a personal affront.  Crowded parking, materials stored in the area you need to work in, tools disappearing, trash and scraps left dangerously scattered around, light stands “borrowed”... you need to learn to approach the right person and to develop the right attitude to have these concerns taken seriously so they will be dealt with, because if these matters aren’t handled right they can act as kindling near a powder keg.  All this and more is steadily absorbed throughout apprenticeship until the days blur together and the lessons become ingrained as second nature. 

I got two of my very own apprentices within a couple of days of officially becoming a journeyman.  I was hardly done celebrating my raise and not having to go to school anymore, and suddenly I was responsible for not only my own work, but two other guys’ too!  We’ve been working together as a team for a few weeks now, although it still seems strange to be the one making the decisions for all three of us and to have to catch and correct my guys’ mistakes and find solutions with them when they hit snags, but I welcome these new challenges.  I’m proud to have gotten to where I am now, and I can tell you it was all worth it. 

Could grant money and the flexibility of the new Apprenticeship regulations changes be used to help transition the disabled from school to work situations? An apprenticeship could be just the answer that many children with disabilities are looking for!   
 
Years ago, before I got involved in labor or project management, I worked as a facilitator for people with neurological disorders.  That could mean someone with a brain injury (mild or severe), a child with autism, or a teenager with Down's syndrome.  I often wondered, as does mom Kristina Chew in this news article, how some of these folks might be transitioned into working jobs in society?  It seems to me that the hands-on skills training and combined classroom training model of a Registered Apprenticeship might be just the perfect ticket for disabled individuals to learn the skills they need to become productive and working members of the US labor force. 
 
Well, with new grants from the US-DOL's Office of Disability Employment Policy, this might be possible!  ODEP is offering $400K in grants to agencies and organizations to develop Registered Apprenticeships for Youth with disabilities (ages 16-27).  Not only would this money help develop more Registered Apprenticeships to engage disabled individuals in a productive training program, but it is hoped that the apprenticeships can be geared towards high-growth, high-demand industries such as healthcare, construction, green jobs, biotechnology, etc.  So, not only are we giving disabled youth a chance, but we're giving them a leg up on the competition by training them for a high-demand field! 
 
I have high hopes that this program makes a big impact, and that it continues to be funded, because I've seen firsthand and I really do believe that individuals with disabilities have a lot to contribute to America's workforce. 

Electronic media is everywhere these days - especially as embraced by the new administration.  We've had a lot of questions lately around how the revised Registered Apprenticeship regulations address how to use electronic media, so here are some answers!  Special thanks to John Griffin for providing us with this succinct summary. 

 

How is electronic media addressed in the revised regulations?

The revised regulations, specifically 29.5(b)(4), include electronic media among the ways that a registered apprenticeship program can meet the requirements to provide organized, related instruction in technical subjects related to the occupation.  Electronic media is defined in 29.2 to mean media that utilize electronics or electromechanical energy for the end user to access the content (e.g. electronic storage media, the Internet, extranets, private networks, etc). The revised regulations do not require apprenticeship programs to use electronic media; rather they permit use of electronic media as a tool to support industry learning styles. The extent to which an apprenticeship program incorporates electronic media depends on the learning objectives of the particular occupation associated with an apprenticeship program. The regulations retain other methods of related instruction such as classroom, occupation or industry courses, or other instruction approved by the Registration Agency.

 

How was the issue addressed in the original regulations?

Previously, the regulations did not specifically authorize the use electronic media as a means to provide related instruction.

 

What is the reason for the change?

By including the use of electronic media in the definition of related instruction, the revised regulations now fully support technology-based and distance learning. The inclusion of electronic media is necessary to align the National Apprenticeship System with technological advances and appropriate industry application of such advances in the delivery of related instruction. For further information, please refer to pages 64409, 64410 of the Federal Register Notice for the final rule (73 FR 64402, Oct. 29, 2008).

 

What are the next steps?

The final rule was published October 29, 2008, in the Federal Register, and takes effect on December 29, 2008. The final rule provides State Apprenticeship Agencies (SAAs) with two years from the effective date, with extensions as needed, to implement necessary changes.

The Office of Apprenticeship (OA) recognizes that program sponsors and providers of related instruction may require more information and clarification regarding electronic media. OA will consult with SAAs to develop and issue further guidance illustrating the appropriate use of electronic media. This information will be posted on the OA regulations Web page, www.doleta.gov/oa/regulations.cfm.

For more information about the revised regulations, please contact OA at (202) 693 2796 or

Regs.Apprenticeship@dol.gov.

 

Registered Apprenticeship and Education

 

Those who have been involved in the registered apprenticeship system know that with every registered apprenticeship program there is a component of related instruction that is at least 144 hours per year for the term of the program.  Related instruction or classroom training is intended to supplement the training experience of the apprentice and provide the theory needed to master aspects of the trade.

 

Many states provide in their regulations on registered apprenticeship that there must be related instruction tied to the on-the-job learning experience. Some states actually lay out the curricula, and at what point in the apprenticeship the particular lessons should be taught.  Other states have specific agencies that oversee the related instruction aspect of the apprenticeship and sign off on the completion of segments of the required related training.

 

Many people unfamiliar with the registered apprenticeship system don’t realize that there is a related instruction aspect to apprenticeship.

 

Since registered apprenticeship is somewhat flexible, related training can also be flexible depending on the registration agency (State or Federal) and what they will approve.  Programs may give credit for previous education and or previous on-the-job learning.  In some states there is great concern for related training and in some states the related training is left to the program sponsor.

 

Programs might have related training:

  • One night a week for the school year
  • One weekend a month
  • Two weeks a year
  • Night school at a community college or technical high school
  • Correspondence course
  • Distance or E-courses on-line (see attached: At a Glance: Electronic Media in Related Instruction Apprenticeship Final Rule, 29 CFR Part 29)
  • Associate degree programs
  • Other

In joint labor/management programs (commonly called joint apprenticeship committees) related training is usually provided free of cost to the apprentice.  Open shop or merit shop programs also provide related instruction to their registered apprentices, sometimes at the sponsor’s expense, sometimes at the apprentice’s expense.

 

Sponsors take related training seriously because the apprentices learn theory that will make them more productive on the job.  Classroom training can be costly but the reality is that it would be more costly if there was no training.  Some sponsors, through recruitment, seek out individuals with higher levels of education prior to indenturing them as apprentices.  I have seen large companies have their own school in-plant and companies utilize institutions of higher learning for their instruction.  Cost and quality are always a concern and with some industries, training departments are the first to cut back.

 

Courses taught in related education classes can be designed for many trades such as math, blueprint reading, tools, soft skills etc. or courses for the specific trade i.e. electrician, plumber, LPN, etc.

 

I think that related instruction education is one of the key components of registered apprenticeship.  What do you think?

 

Registered Apprenticeship is certainly getting coverage by the Obama Administration.  The Department is actively working on a comprehensive set of Solicitations for Grant Awards which will, amongst other policy goals, encourage greater partnerships with and promotion of Registered Apprenticeship programs. Alsos in our ARRA Policy Guidance we are encouraging the publicly funded workforce system to more actively reach out to Registered Apprenticeship programs, including labor management organizations.

Finally, in the past year, ETA has provided over $10 million in discretionary resources to support and promote Registered Apprenticeship. $6.5 million was made available to national organizations to incorporate elements of the revised regulatory framework governing the National Apprenticeship System. $2.5 million was made available to State Apprenticeship Agencies to assist in their efforts to modernize their Apprenticeship systems. Technical assistance resources were provided for a series of Action Clinics around the country to promote greater collaboration with Registered Apprenticeship.  Through all of these efforts, it's pretty clear to me that the Registered Apprenticeship folks in Washington are working very hard to promote a Green Recovery! 

Editor's Note:  This is an interview with Antonio Brown, a recent electrician apprenticeship graduate and Army Reservist.  The interview was conducted by Jonathan Bibb, Program Manager, and Bill Stoecker, Area Supervisor, DWE Apprenticeship Office.

Antonio became interested in working in the electrical field as a child when his father was training in electronics.  While in High School he made plans to become an electrical engineer, and based on this career path, worked toward preparing himself for college.  Initially, he attended Christian Brothers University (CBU) in Memphis because of its excellent engineering program.  He attended CBU approximately a year and although he enjoyed the University and Memphis he was unable to complete their program. 

Antonio returned to Little Rock and began attending the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR).  While in attendance there, he began working at Home Depot at which time, he was informed on how to become and Electrical Apprentice.  It was also during the same timeframe that he joined the Military (Army Reserves).  Antonio explained, “While I was working at Home Depot, I had a regular customer named Eddie.  He and I became good friends, and I knew he was in the construction business, so I asked him how to become an electrician.”

Luckily, Eddie was a member of the Steel Workers’ Union and knew a great deal about apprenticeship and the path to becoming an electrician.  Eddie gave Antonio the contact information for the IBEW’s Electrical Apprenticeship Program and told him to contact the program to find out about how to become an apprentice electrician.  Shortly after this, Antonio contacted the IBEW, interviewed to become an apprentice, and was selected. 

Antonio completed his five year apprenticeship this year.  Based on his level of skill attainment and commitment to the trade, he was selected as the IBEW Local 295 “Apprentice of the Year”.  He completed his entire apprenticeship program and never missed a night of technical related training.  He did have a few excused absences while he was fulfilling his obligations of serving the country in the Army Reserves.

When asked about his apprenticeship training Antonio recalled, “On a scale of 1 to 10, it was definitely at 10.  It was the longest and shortest five years of my life”. 

Antonio went on to say, “I really wished I would have been told about apprenticeship while I was going to high school.  I think if I knew more about it, I may have chosen to become an electrician right out of high school.  It is a great career choice.  The training was great.  Many times I was able to receive one-on-one training with the instructors, and I was able to build some great relationships with people in my apprenticeship classes”.

Since Antonio was serving his country in the military while attending apprenticeship, he was able to utilize funding from the Montgomery G.I. Bill.  This resource served as an aide in providing extra income for personal costs related to his training.  Also, he has been able to exercise both his apprenticeship training and military training in communications technology to diversify his job skills.  He knows this will enhance his abilities to become a bigger asset to employers.

Antonio plans to work toward obtaining his masters license in the near future.  In addition, he has not ruled out going back to college to attain a degree in electrical engineering.  In addition, he is exploring the option of starting up his own company after he becomes a master electrician.  As he put it, “I will have many opportunities and I plan on learning throughout my lifetime to help take advantage of these opportunities”. 
Skills Envy
Posted on July 01, 2009 by Thao Nelson
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Listen to this interesting podcast on the Brian Lehrer Show.  Despite the recession, jobs are available that require exacting skills obtained through voc-tech training not a college degree.  Richard Sennett, professor of sociology at NYU and the London School of Economics and author of several books including  the Craftsman, on why skilled workers with real-life experience in certain industries are still in high demand despite the recession, talks to callers who brag about their skills.
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