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Meet our guest blogger- Susan E. Symons who works for the Kansas Department of Commerce Registered Apprenticeship.  She attended the national ACTE conference a couple weeks ago and here’s what she had to say…

“Four thousand people and I attended the national ACTE conference in Nashville, TN two weeks ago and Jane Oates gave a right-on keynote on issues close to my heart:  Registered Apprenticeship AND Green!  Her first words were (loosely transcribed), “I have two words that should be forefront as you (educators) create and revise your CTE programs:  APPRENTICESHIP and GREEN.”

The keynote address was videotaped, so we'll post it shortly.  If you attended the conference, let us know what your thoughts.


Lansing, Michigan  Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth Deputy Director Andy Levin announced on June 22, 2009 that Michigan will devote $1 million from ARRA (Recovery Act) to create the Michigan Registered Apprenticeship Pilot (MRAP) program. MRAP funds will provide incentives to employers who partner with their local Michigan Works! Agencies across the state to sponsor 1,000 new apprentices in U.S. Depart (USDOL) registered apprenticeships.  MRAP, which began Aug. 1, 2009, offers employers a $1,000 incentive — $500 when the USDOL Apprenticeship Office certifies the start of the apprenticeship and $500 after the apprentice has completed six months of the training. In addition to the $1,000 incentive to the company, Michigan Works may — providing funding is available — choose to pay for classroom training for the apprentice.

The two-year program operates through local Michigan Works Agencies across the state. South Central Michigan Works registered the first five apprentices in Michigan, including Sheldon. Individuals in the MRAP program who meet No Worker Left Behind eligibility requirements will also be eligible to receive educational support of up to $5000 per year for a two year period, up to a total of $10,000.

In an effort to prepare Michigan’s female, minority, and economically disadvantaged workforce for apprenticeship positions, weatherization projects and other green construction jobs, Michigan is launching the Energy Conservation Apprenticeship Readiness (ECAR) Program through the use of ARRA Funds.


What’s your state doing to leverage ARRA Funds to advance Registered Apprenticeship?


On October 1-3, 2009, the New England Regional Council of Carpenters hosted their annual Apprenticeship Expo and Contest at their training center in Millbury, MA. This video is a great way to promote apprenticeship careers.


Kentucky used Recovery Act funds to hire a time-limited staff member to research and advise the Kentucky Workforce Board on links with Registered Apprenticeship.

At this time they have been awarded $750,000 of ARRA funds “set aside” for Pre-Apprenticeship.   A Request for Proposals was recently issued to local WIA Boards;

 (10 in Kentucky) asking them to partner with Registered Apprenticeship programs and bring forward innovative ideas on how to expand Pre-Apprenticeship/ Apprenticeship participation. The proposals are due mid December 15, 2009.  These proposals will identify what specific industries and trades will be supported and an estimate of how many individuals that will be assisted and at what cost.

Kentucky’s plan is to use Pre-Apprenticeship as a first step in acquiring skills by preparing workers to provide basic skills needed for Registered Apprenticeships and moving unemployed adults into stable employment. The Pre-Apprenticeship programs identified in response to this initiative will help trainees attain successful careers in construction occupations by preparing them for full Registered Apprenticeship programs in those occupations; and must demonstrate knowledge of Pre-Apprenticeship training and contribute to the further development of Pre-Apprenticeship models. This project will utilize the $750,000 stimulus funds under ARRA, allotted through a Workforce Investment Act (WIA) state discretionary grant.

Over $15 million of ARRA funds were distributed to the Commonwealth’s 10 local workforce investment boards to provide workforce and training services to the youth identified as most in need of assistance.  Approximately 85 percent of these funds were to be used to conduct the Kentucky Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) providing training opportunities to approximately 6,000 at-risk youth and young adults across the state. 

How are ARRA funds being leveraged in your state to advance Registered Apprenticeship?

Alaska's Apprenticeship
Posted on November 19, 2009 by John Griffin
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The second of a series of articles about each state’s apprenticeship system, this article is on Alaska.  John Hakala the State Director was kind enough to supply me with the details on Alaska which presents specific challenges to apprenticeship because of it’s size and the remote areas of the state. It is significant to note there are only two people servicing the entire state of Alaska’s apprenticeship system.


At the end of October 2009 Alaska had 313 active program sponsors. During the year the USDOL Office of Apprenticeship developed and registered 51 new programs in the following industries or sectors. In construction (23), healthcare (6), advanced manufacturing (5), mining (5), homeland security (3), transportation (4), automotive (2) and energy (3).  At the end of October 2009 Alaska had 2273 active apprentices; 731 new apprentices for the year, and 248 completions.


 The federal Office of Apprenticeship is the registration agency and has two full time technical staff. They work closely with the Alaska Department of Labor & Workforce Development, who in 2007 established a State Office of Apprenticeship. In 2008 we trained 25 Apprenticeship Specialists within the statewide One-Stop Job Center system to market and expand the registered apprenticeship system. With ongoing coaching and mentoring by federal staff, the state Apprenticeship Specialists developed nearly half of the new programs registered in FY2009.


Based on a 1996 – 2007 study, the top ten occupations in 2007 were electrician, construction craft laborer, plumber, pipe fitter, carpenter, operating engineer, power lineman, sheet metal workers, telecommunications installers, and building maintenance repairer. Note that 55 percent of the programs registered in FY2007 were in occupations outside of the construction industry.


Associate of Applied Science Degree in Apprenticeship Technologies: Apprentice graduates historically transition to positions of greater responsibility within their companies. Representatives are working with the University of Alaska and Alaska Department of Labor & Workforce Development to promote the AAS degree to companies and training providers who employ recent apprentice graduates. Apprentice completers can receive up to 38 technical credits for their apprenticeship for a nominal fee. They also need to complete the 15 credits of general education, 6 pathway credits and any additional electives required for the AAS. We are designing the project with an instructor and business/management emphasis. 10-15 participants will be recruited across four statewide campuses for enrollment in the January 2010.


 Environmental Analyst: USDOL Apprenticeship Reps are working with nine environmental engineering companies and the Alaska and Alaska Department of Labor & Workforce Development to develop an apprenticeship program for Environmental Analyst. This is one of the 55 apprentice occupations identified in the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act (AGIA) Training Strategic Plan. The AGIA plan identifies 113 occupations that are considered significant in constructing a natural gas pipeline. The Environmental Analyst is unique because work opportunities exist from the design and permitting phases of the project, through to the construction and operations phases. No postsecondary training exists for this occupation so the partnership will need to identify the workplace competencies and develop the related technical instruction program.


School to Apprenticeship Initiative with the Mat-Su Career and Technical High School: We are working with the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District, Alaska and Alaska Department of Labor & Workforce Development, and Alaska Department of Transportation to develop a borough wide apprenticeship outreach initiative that targets employers and links high school students to registered apprenticeship programs. We are focusing on career areas and occupations that the Mat-Su Career and Technical High School provides training for. This curriculum will become part of the first year of related technical studies for the apprenticeship program. The remaining related instruction courses will be provided by the local community college or other approved training provider. This Mat-Su School to Apprenticeship Initiative will commence in January 2010.


The AAS project that I am referencing might be what you are asking about. Apprentices can enroll into the AAS program as apprentices and it links directly to a Bachelors of Science in Technology (BST). this all happens through the Community and Technical College, of the University of Alaska system. The apprenticeship AAS program is underutilized so Representatives are trying to jumpstart it and get some testimonials generated. An 8000 hour apprenticeship is worth 38 credits, and a 4000 hour apprenticeship is worth 19 credits, and so on. So far, the response from employers has been favorable - the degree will add value to the person and to their company. The AAS brochure is attached.


John P. Hakala

State Director

U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Apprenticeship

605 West 4th Avenue, Room G30

Anchorage, AK 99501

Phone: (907) 271-5035   Fax: (907) 271-5024






Submitted by:

John Griffin





BusinessWeek Logo
EUROPE October 7, 2009, 4:17PM EST

The Apprentice: Germany's Answer to Jobless Youth

Longstanding government programs that encourage companies to train young people are curbing Germany's pain, even during a global economic crisis

In most countries, giving up full-time schooling at age 15 would seem like a bad plan. But for Christian Dietrich, who lives in the German village of Ketsch, outside Heidelberg, the move made sense. Three years ago, Dietrich became an apprentice at Helmut Herbert, a large plumbing contractor in nearby Bensheim, alternating two weeks of on-the-job training with one week of classes at a vocational school. Now 18, Dietrich will qualify next year in what are traditionally separate trades: heating, plumbing, and air-conditioning. He's proud of his accomplishment. "You used to have to call three technicians. Now you only need one," says Dietrich, already making a sales pitch for his company.

Germany's apprenticeship program is one answer to a growing problem. Even as the world financial system stabilizes, unemployment among young people is soaring. In Spain, some 39% of under-25-year-olds are jobless, up from 26% a year ago. Ten other European Union countries including France, Belgium, and Hungary have youth unemployment rates above 20%. In the U.S., the unemployment rate for 16- to 24-year-olds has climbed to over 18%, up from 13% a year ago.

The danger is that a generation of young people may be economically scarred for years. Studies suggest that an extended period of youthful joblessness can significantly depress lifetime income as people get stuck in low-end jobs, or come to be seen by employers as damaged goods. "The longer they are out of work, the harder it becomes [to get work]," says Neil Carberry, head of employment policy for the Confederation of British Industry, a trade association.

In Germany, by contrast, under-25 joblessness was 8.2% in September, just a tick above the overall German rate of 8%. Austria, Denmark, and Switzerland also have well-established apprenticeship programs and below-average youth unemployment. Rather than being left to flounder after high school, young workers are plugged right into the labor market.

Companies are happy with the system, too. Apprenticeships give employers several years to train workers in company-specific skills and assess the abilities of an Azubi—short for Auszubildener ("trainee"). Says G?nther Hohlweg, who oversees the 10,000 young people learning trades at Munich-based electronics and engineering giant Siemens: "When they're done, they can start on a higher level."

The system is even good for the national budget, because companies bear much of the cost of secondary-school education. German authorities accredit some 350 kinds of apprenticeship, ranging from baker to hair stylist and bank clerk to video editor. Even university students may be apprentices, splitting their time between studying and practical experience in fields such as biotech or aerospace.

Lately, though, the system has come under stress through factors related to both the current downturn and long-term changes in the global labor market. The number of apprenticeships slumped more than 10% between 2000 and 2005, recovering only after the government threatened to compel companies to take more trainees. German officials expect the number to dip again this year because of the financial crisis. Although apprentices in lower-skilled trades can serve as cheap labor, they are often an expense to their employers in the short term. Siemens (SI) spends about $220 million a year training Azubis, some of whom earn as much as $1,500 a month. The company estimates that the productive work done by the trainees equals only about one-third their cost. Siemens, which offers almost all its apprentices full-time jobs, recoups the investment only later.

The biggest problem is a shortage of work for teens who complete only basic schooling, which may end after the ninth grade. Germany's highly automated factories offer far fewer low-skilled jobs than they used to. As a result, more than half the graduates of basic schooling wind up in government-supported training programs. About a quarter of those don't land a private-sector apprenticeship and run a high risk of long-term unemployment. "Because of the changes in the labor market, the system is not functioning as smoothly as it used to," says Tilly Lex, a sociologist at the German Youth Institute who studies job training.

At the same time, some industries take on too many apprentices. Hair salons, for example, can profit from the cheap labor that trainees provide. So they tend to train more hairdressers than the market can absorb. Once young people have invested years learning a trade, it's tough to start over. Germany is much less successful retraining older workers than training young ones.

The big question is whether the apprenticeship program is flexible enough to adjust to a changing global economy. Says Markus Kiss, an education specialist at the German Chamber of Commerce & Industry: "The system has a future, but it has to be adjusted."

Ewing is BusinessWeek's European regional editor.

A question was sent to all OA staff asking those of us who have had experience with on line related instruction, to please share how integrity is maintained? The email went on to ask how to ensure that the actual apprentice is the individual taking and passing the course. Are there any checks and balances as to how tests are conducted? 


I decided to forward that question on to Penn Foster, an expert in the field of On Line Training, or more specifically to Rick Bruno an expert in the field who works for Penn Foster and has helped us here in Iowa immensely in developing on line training for our sponsors.  This is what Rick had to say....


"This subject is often a concern of our clients - especially those new to distance learning. We take an approach of leaving the question of integrity in the hands of the client. Believe it or not, most students are fundamentally honest in their approach to learning. If a client has even the most remote concern that the apprentice is not the one taking the tests or that apprentices are sharing information, we can create manual level tests. In other words, we can test any apprentice, at any time, upon request. For example, a test can be a random test of "x" number of questions, for "x" number of courses that the apprentice(s) has already tested on. These tests can be customized, scrambled and given with a client proctor present. I generally tell my clients to advise their apprentices that this option is available to be utilized at any given time. Just the "threat" of such an exam will keep them honest. Some clients choose to do so, even before they suspect any cheating.  Again, we have very, very few instances where this is really an issue. If it ever becomes an issue, it is most often a case of multiple apprentices and the client suspects information sharing. I think the required OJL tasks will uncover such dishonesty anyway, but there are times our clients feel they need this possibility addressed. Having the ability to customize and scramble tests from a 60,000 question test bank is a very powerful deterrent! "




Rick Bruno

Independent Training Consultant

Penn Foster Inc./Workforce Development Div.


Like all registered apprenticeship programs we have to trust the Sponsor and apprentice will maintain the highest level of integrity.   We always have CR's and OA's to verify.



Most building, construction, manufacturing companies and organizations have heard of registered apprenticeship.  Some know it intimately, by sponsoring a program or graduating from one.  Some think they inherently know because those programs are “union” and “old school,” they want nothing to do with it, and immediately stop listening.  Some have remotely heard of it, but not in detail, and others are one step removed, having a family member or friend who was an apprentice once upon a time.  Everyone understands the meaning of the word “apprentice” but many do not have a true appreciation for how it can apply to their situation. 

Allow me to enlighten you.  Potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit, perhaps even millions in added revenue.  Did that get your attention?  Good.  It should have – but let’s review the what, why and how before we talk about the how much.

What is registered apprenticeship you now ask, with one eyebrow suspiciously raised?  It is the premier model for training and educating your workforce.  It is a highly structured, in depth vehicle for developing highly skilled workers to your specifications.  It is industry driven.  It has significant economic development ramifications.  It is the insurance a business needs, now more than ever, to ensure that they have an ongoing stream of talent development that will maximize productivity, reduce turnover, increase the level of safety while reducing workers compensation costs, and develop loyalty and dependability in employees.  It provides a high return on investment.  It gives companies the ability to pay below Davis Bacon rates.  It provides national recognition, distinction and added respect for your business among your industry peers.  It helps attract a higher quality candidate who wants a post secondary education at little cost, nationally recognized certification and career path, not just a job.  In many cases, it is a management training tool as well.  Simply put, it is a strategic investment in the sustainability and future growth of your company and industry combined.

On the flip side, here is what registered apprenticeship is not.  It is not a “union” program – it’s a training program.  Any business, organization, or association can sponsor one.  It is not necessarily expensive.  Doing nothing and depending on others to provide a skilled workforce, who oftentimes fail miserably, is far more costly in workers compensation costs (because we all know that unskilled workers = unsafe working conditions), OSHA violations, recruiting costs due to high turnover, and lower productivity, just to name a few.  It is definitely not a government run program.  It is not obsolete.  It is not for the high school losers who dropped out.

Let’s take a moment to discuss the union versus non-union tug-of-war, the elephant in the room, if you will.  Are labor unions known for having registered apprenticeship programs?  Yes.  If it weren’t for organized labor, apprenticeship wouldn’t exist in this country.  It had all but died out in the U.S. until unions reinvigorated it.  Keep in mind, though, that there is not one union-sponsored program in this country that is not in partnership with a large number of employers to jointly run that program.  Without those businesses, their apprenticeship programs would be defunct, and these same businesses, as an industry, dictate the skills they need their workforce to have, and it is the union’s responsibility to deliver them.  In most cases, the labor unions across this country, and every other country for that matter, have the apprenticeship thing down to a science.  If they can’t provide high quality labor for their contractors, then they’re out of business.  A very smart man once said, “Leadership drives destiny.”  I’m going to tweak this a bit to read, “Leadership and value drive destiny.” This is true whether you’re a union, a non-union association, a contractor, a politician, or a babysitter. Your future depends on your ability to remain valuable to employers, set an example for others to live up to, and be relevant and productive.

Are union apprenticeship programs better than non-union ones?  Well, that’s subject to debate, but there are plenty of excellent union programs, and there are excellent non-union ones as well.  It doesn’t matter which way you swing, you can’t use that oversized elephant as an excuse anymore for not taking advantage of the program.  Welcome to the registered apprenticeship system of the 21st century!  Where have you been?

So what about all of this profit, you’re wondering?  If there is so much financial and industrial value in registered apprenticeship, how come I’ve never heard about it before?  How come it’s not used more widely by employers?  The fact of the matter is that registered apprenticeship is known in a few circles as the best kept secret of workforce development.  Let me break it down for you in terms of bacon – Davis Bacon, to be precise.  This federal act gives the U.S. Department of Labor the authority to determine prevailing wage rates per occupation and location for any federally funded or assisted construction projects.  Moreover, many states, cities and municipalities have determined their own prevailing wage levels, but for the purposes of this explanation, we’ll stick with the federal rates.  This means that if you are a contractor or subcontractor doing work on a federal project, you must pay EVERYONE on that jobsite the wage that USDOL has set by occupation.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a helper, a journey worker, or a foreman, you must be paid at or above the prevailing wage – with one notable exception.  Registered apprentices can be paid less.  That’s right, you heard me.  Whichever step an apprentice sits on the progressive pay scale, which is determined by their program sponsor’s Standards of Apprenticeship, is the amount they can legally be paid on a federal job. 


For instance, you have a first year carpenter apprentice, and we’ll call him Danny.  (Bear with me here.)  Danny is in his first year in the apprenticeship program, so he is on the lowest step, which is 55% of the predetermined journey worker hourly rate.  He receives consistent on-the-job training by an experienced journey worker and several hours of classroom training each week as well, with evaluations to test his expansion of knowledge.   As he gains more skills and becomes more productive, Danny will advance up the pay scale until he reaches the end of his apprenticeship, where he will then be making that journey worker wage. 

Working on the same job but for a different contractor is Buddy, who was just hired off the street and has no experience or training whatsoever.  Buddy is not a registered apprentice, so if you put him on a federal job, you’ll have to pay him the prevailing wage of $19.92/hour, because you have to pay everyone working as a carpenter, no matter what the experience level, that rate.  Yet Danny, being a registered apprentice, will be paid 55% of that wage initially.  Let’s look at the long term outcome, with fringes being equal, in a very simplified format.



Prevailing Wage

Hourly Rate (1st Yr)

Annual Pay, 1st Year (2,000 hours)

Pay Over 4 Years*

Savings Over Four Years

Savings for 10 Apprentices, 4 Years

Savings for 50 Apprentices, 4 Years








$438, 200











*The average length of a carpenter registered apprenticeship program.

But wait!  There’s more!  Some states, such as mine, have tax credits for registered apprenticeship program sponsors.  Ours happens to be $1,000 per apprentice per year.  Your revenue increases even more.  For one apprentice over a four year period, add $4,000.   For ten apprentices over four years, add $40,000.  For fifty, add $200,000. 

Money talks, doesn’t it?  You’re actually banking hundreds of thousands of dollars on Danny and his counterparts, who are receiving rigorous training in four years time, and becoming highly skilled journey workers that gain nationally recognized credentials.  The figures don’t even take into account the higher productivity that will be gained as a result of Danny and his fellow apprentices!  Compare that to Buddy.  He didn’t receive any structured training, performed sub-standard work, then was hurt on the job about ten months after he was hired due to his ineptitude.  He was replaced by more inexperienced, low skilled workers, doing minimum wage work for almost $20 per hour.  They produced less and were far less knowledgeable. Danny, on the other hand, eventually became their supervisor, and foreman a few years after that.  When the job came to an end, Buddy’s compadres went on unemployment because they weren’t skilled enough to find more work in private sector projects.  That unemployment insurance came out of your pocket, along with Buddy’s workers comp claims (assuming, of course, that you’re not misclassifying your employees as independent contractors – but that’s another blog for another day).

Meanwhile Danny, and the other forty-nine apprentices that graduated from the apprenticeship program about the same time he did, found work right away.  The next guy that hired them was thrilled to get such highly skilled workers, and paid them handsomely for those skills, which gave them significant income to spend in the community.  There is the economic development angle that deserves recognition as well.  From the day they started the apprenticeship program, they were paying local, state and federal taxes.  Between them, during their four year apprenticeships combined, they paid an estimated $200,000 in taxes that were reinvested into their community, adding to the stability of the local economy.  From a government perspective, the return on investment is enormous.  For every dollar spent by the federal government to support registered apprenticeship, $50 in tax revenue is generated, not to mention $100 in private sector investments.  There is no other program like it with such a positive financial impact.  Not a single one.

Registered apprenticeship has come a long way.  It has been modernized to be more flexible while still maintaining the high standards that are demanded so that this country can compete in the global marketplace.  It is industry and business driven, provides a structured and highly beneficial training model, many financial incentives, up-skills your workers to be what YOU need them to be, and produces a steady stream of experienced journey workers to replace your aging workforce.  Sponsoring a registered apprenticeship program is an investment for the future, not an expense, in your business and community.  I dare you to sit there and expect another entity to provide a labor pool that you can pay low wages for high skills.  Skilled labor is already hard to come by.   Do you really think the labor market will miraculously improve without any effort on your part?  It ain’t gonna happen, my friend, but you can watch your business die while you’re waiting, or stand by while INS raids your worksite and carts off 50% of your undocumented workers.

So, the question before you is this:  What’s your excuse for not having one?  

A Certified Nurse Aide Apprenticeship program is giving people in northern Michigan a new way to move in to a career in health care. What healthcare apprenticeships are happening in your area?

Professional Metrics: Do You Measure Up?

The types and groups of people one associates herself or himself with, many might say, is one measure of a true professional.  In less than one week, the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) will be holding their annual convention and conference in Nashville, TN (See link below). I often wonder how many of the instructors and/or administrators affiliated with US-DOL Registered Apprenticeship programs have made the connection with ACTE. To be sure, ACTE offers a variety of opportunities for participation at the local, state, and national levels. Whether you are a career and education (CTE) teacher/instructor with a background as a mechanic, chef, firefighter, machinist, brick mason, or nurse, ACTE can assist you with professional development. The workshops and networking in Nashville will provide CTE teachers/instructors with a plethora of information that can be utilized back home to increase students’ outcomes, improve accountability, secure funding, etc. Not to mention, ACTE’s monthly professional journal (Techniques) is loaded with articles that are sure to expose secondary and post-secondary CTE teachers/instructors to the cutting edge trends, best practices, research, and legislation impacting CTE. In closing, as professionals, we need to ensure that other professions (i.e., doctors, lawyers, accountants, etc.) view us as such. Make an investment in your and your students’ futures by joining a nationwide professional organization that is 24,000-members strong!


Green Building Technology, and Technology Based Training highlighted the 33rd Midwestern Apprenticeship Coordinators Conference (MACC) held October 7, 8. & 9, at the beautiful Lake of the Ozarks.  The theme of the conference was Technology Based Training in Apprenticeship. Other topics on the agenda were Apprenticeship Day School, and the Fiduciary Duties relating to Apprenticeship Programs.   


I was really impressed with how far technology has advanced in the classroom, between the smart boards, self-paced training, distance learning, software that’s available to download course materials, develop test, and the hand held devices that allows instant feedback from the students to interact in class with each other and the instructor.  It makes learning fun, which is how it should be.


The MACC Steering Committee did an outstanding job on organizing the conference the speakers were outstanding, the panel discussions were informative and the food was great.


Attendance was up with plenty of new faces.  Unfortunately only two people from OA were allowed to attend this year. This resulted in a lost opportunity for Region 5 staff to learn about Green Building Technology, Technology Based Training, and to increase our partnerships with our stakeholders.


Do you remember Clay Kubicek?  We introduced him to our community in September.  He's the Education Director at Crossland Construction Company and a strong supporter of Apprenticeship.

He wanted to share a recent webcast in which he was interviewed about the training needs of business and how apprenticeships are key to their training and development strategy.