Over the last few months, and increasingly over just the last few weeks, we’ve seen a noticeable increase of Apprenticeship in the news, and even more encouraging, an increase in the mention of Apprenticeship by President Obama and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis during remarks related to economic recovery and employment options for dislocated workers. Those remarks have been highlighted here on the CoP several times lately and it’s created added excitement and energy to our work here in the National Office. There is an audible change in the air regarding future opportunities for expanding Apprenticeship to train
Is this increase in energy and excitement evident in your state or region? Have you seen opportunities for expanding Apprenticeship’s reach increase? What’s the word on the street - or the talk around the water cooler - or the buzz; or any of those other catchy ways of asking if you feel this increase in energy and opportunity also?
Would love to hear from those of you outside of
You never know what you're going to find online. The internet is so ubiquitous and we adopt so much of the cyberculture in our everyday lives -- did you ever think you'd be saying "Google" every day? -- that we may not have thought about using some of the most widely visited sites to conduct outreach and education about our programs.
Just visit You Tube and search for "apprenticeship," or add more keywords to refine the results. You'll see that there are a lot of videos posted that tell the story of apprentices and their work. Click on some of them. They can be pretty good!
The California Department of Industrial Relations put together the "I Built It!" campaign to highlight opportunities in construction apprenticeships. This series of 15- and 30-second public service announcements stars actual apprentices on the job, telling their stories in sound bites and quick visual scenes. With titles like "I"m on Top of the World!' and "I'm Having a Blast!" that can describe a real day on a construction job, the campaign uses humor and the enthusiasm of the workers to get the point across. Oh, and the excellent pay and benefits are mentioned too, as well as the sense of accomplishment these apprentices enjoy from completing a high rise building, a bridge, or a new freeway.
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:
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?
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. For more information about the revised regulations, please contact OA at (202) 693 2796 or Regs.Apprenticeship@dol.gov
Last week, I was contacted by a gentleman out of East Texas. The poor man was beside himself. He had recently been laid off from a plant, along with 500 other workers. He went into great detail about how he was looking into his options, looking for a sustainable career, how he has a family to support, and that he has a great qualifications from work experience and previous schooling. He is very interested in joining a registered apprenticeship program. Bottom line - he's trying to find a new path, one he's being forced to take and was completely unexpected. His path led him to me.
I referred him to one of our programs just over the border in our great state of Louisiana, one that I feel he can apply his previous experience to most easily. I also called the training director and let him know this gentlemen would be contacting him. Although the training director was happy to talk to him, he made it very clear that they have more apprentices than they can handle since there is less work in the construction industry right now. I thought to myself, it wasn't that long ago that the opposite was true. Some of our Louisiana program sponsors were desperate for good candidates to apply to their programs, wages were higher (thanks to post-Katrina ramifications), and work was more plentiful. Now, many of our sponsors are beating off applicants with a stick. For a split second I wondered what the cause is for this turn of events (it was early morning and my brain wasn't operating at full power yet), and then it occurred to me. It's the economy, stupid.
When the good folks in the Office of Apprenticeship asked me to be a regular blogger on this site, and then suggested I write about the effects of the economy on registered apprenticeship, I shuddered. I'll be honest with you, if I had to pick one subject matter that I'd avoid at all costs, it's anything having to do with economics. Jamming a needle in my eye is a more attractive option. I barely passed Economics 101 in college. That and chemistry are two areas I cannot wrap my brain around. Thankfully, chemistry is not exactly a common topic of conversation. But the economy is - and will always continue to be. Lucky for me, you can have an opinion on the economy and not know very much about the economic theory behind it. Chances are, few people do.
We here in "Sportsman's Paradise" are definitely feeling the affects of this disappointing and difficult economy - particularly on the state level. Initially, Louisiana was insulated from the economic fall out, and we were very proud of the fact that we were doing so well when the rest of the country was struggling. Fast forward a year, and the landscape looks very different. The legislature is cutting and slashing the state budget as we speak, which means less resources for the public, yet far more demand for them due to the seemingly daily plant closings and WARN notices our agency learns about. These dislocated workers are out there looking for opportunities that will help them survive, and they're going to our one-stops (which in Louisiana are called Business & Career Solution Centers) in record numbers.
This leads me to my next dilemma. How do I move our integration action plan forward in our Centers under these conditions? It's not appropriate to push our frontline staff to refer jobseekers to apprenticeship programs when many of those programs can't take them. Their application logs are growing longer by the day.
Closer to home, I'm personally struggling with how to promote registered apprenticeship and recruit new program sponsors, given an economy that is straining to keep its head above water. Employers are making significant reductions to their workforce, dealing with declining revenue - so I keep hearing that the last thing they are going to focus on is a training model that will add another line item to their balance sheet - and it's hard to argue with that. Or is it?
It seems my inaugural blog is asking more than telling, so I'm tossing this back to you. What do you think? How is your state handling this? Do you feel like registered apprenticeship has taken a hit or slowed down? Do you have a good argument for employers to utilize the program despite budget woes? Please comment below and add your two cents. We want to hear from you! Share your expertise with others.
Don't forget to keep an eye out for my June blog, "The ESAC Diaries."