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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”. 

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?

 

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.

 

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.