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High Quality Instructors

In the years I have been involved with registered apprenticeship (RA) programs, I have heard on more than one occasion that career and technical education plays a lesser role than academic education in our nation’s K-16 system. Meanwhile, many of our RA programs are spending substantial sums of money on remediating their incoming apprentices. Be these issues perception or truth, it is in our best interest to ensure that our RA programs recruit and develop the best craftspeople in order provide high quality instruction to our apprentices. This cannot be accomplished merely by hiring the best carpenter or plumber from the field and hoping s/he has a knack for passing on the tips of the trade.


In fact, performing well within one’s trade requires a totally different skill set than that of an instructor. Therefore, it is incumbent upon each Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee to establish a pathway for incoming instructors to earn the credentials that provide the pedagogical tools to become high quality instructors. These tools should include mentoring: placing new instructors with veteran instructors who exhibit excellence and defined professional development: including participating in formal coursework as well as related-conferences, workshops, etc. It seems that human nature tends to push most of us towards taking the path of least resistance. Accordingly, benchmarks must be established and met (See a sample framework below). And, most importantly, instructors need to be supported throughout this process…in both moral and financial terms (i.e., tuition, books, etc.).


HQI Rubric—

Step 1                   Obtain a permanent state teacher’s license within four years of one’s hire date

                                (Raise to industry foreman rate)


Step 2                   Obtain an Associate’s degree within six years of one’s hire date

                                (Raise to industry general foreman rate)


Step 3                   Obtain a Bachelor’s degree within 10 years of one’s hire date

                                (Raise to industry superintendant rate)


Step 4                   Obtain two of the three following:

                                A related Master’s degree;

                                An industry-related Train-the-Trainer (i.e., OSHA 500, AWS-CWI/CWE, etc.);


                                Serve 10 years on the shop floor as an instructor in good standing.

                                (Annual $2500 holiday bonus)


As you may have noticed, the recently updated and approved standards (29CFR29) include requirements for instructor quality. Ultimately, if we want to be treated like professionals then it is time we begin acting like professionals!


“Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.”                         --RFK--



For more on teacher quality.  Click here


A message from Jennifer Murphy, our featured Apprentice-

Of course I’d heard of Apprenticeship.  Ben Franklin,  Johnny Tremain, and Mickey Mouse were all Apprentices!  All three learning a skilled trade from a master of his craft.  But as I recall, Mickey got in a real jam, Johnny melted his hand in a vat of molten silver, and Ben became a fugitive when he broke the law by running away.  So of course, I had HEARD of Apprenticeship, I just never thought I would ever be IN one--  I didn’t even know Apprenticeships still existed!  Funny thing though;  I took a Labor Studies course my last year in college and my class read a book called “Hard Hatted Women” by Molly Martin and by the time I put that book down, in my mind I was already halfway through my own Apprenticeship!

I could hear the diesel rumble of trucks. I could see the faint pink tint of the bottomless sky when the sun is just barely waking up and when most people are still sunk deep in their dreams and pillows.  I smelled the smoke that reminds me of 4th of July coming off the welder’s stick.  I felt the aliveness and freshness and excitement and possibility that comes from creating something and that’s how I knew I wanted to be a construction worker; an electrician.   It took me a few more years after college to find the right Apprenticeship program in the right city for me.  In that time I served my community for 2 years with AmeriCorps--one year renovating campgrounds at a National Park and one year recruiting volunteers for a Big Brother Big Sister program.  After that I tried lots of jobs!  I worked making electron micrographs at a  museum, I sold camping supplies, I served lattes, and  I even made my big Hollywood splash as an extra in one episode of a sitcom!  There was something great about every job I’ve ever had, and I always showed up early, worked hard and learned everything I could.

I was open minded and willing to give anything a try. Those years were fun, and adventurous. 

But always in the back of my mind I kept wondering when I would get a “real” job.  Many of my college friends were moving on through grad school, getting married and buying houses.  I really didn’t know what my next move was going to be.  I loved bicycling, so a friend offered to help get me a job as a bicycle messenger.  He had been one for over 10 years.  He was 40, had no emergency savings, no health insurance, no retirement, no car, and he was making $9 an hour.   I took one long look at his life, another long look at my life, and decided it was time for me to get started with my career!

I was accepted into the IBEW Local 11 Inside Wireman Apprenticeship Program in June of 2004.  For the past 4 years and 10 months I’ve gotten all the diesel rumbling, early mornings, welders smoke, and excitement I was looking for-- and more!  I now have years of on the job experience, I am a full member of the IBEW, I get “real” paychecks, health insurance, and a pension.  The Apprenticeship program has given me an education, a professional network, and the chance to make a name for myself in the electrical industry.   I’ll be a journeyman in June.  --Jennifer Murphy

I was just talking to someone who teaches sociology at a community college. She told me that she tells students that if they want to make money they need to go into the trades. Our plumber makes $65 an hour--I think almost as much as some of my doctors! I don't know many college graduates with a BA who can make that much money. Plus they have student debt as opposed to apprentices who don't. Jennifer made a really good choice. It's also great to have the President and the Secretary of Labor who appreciate the value of apprenticeship in economic growth and frequently promote it. I was on the White House website and did a word search on "apprenticeship" and found it several times. It even looks like President Obama is incorporating apprenticeship into his stock speech as being a post-secondary option for training the workforce.


Check out this link!


Examples are below:

Liveblog: The Task Force's first meeting

efficiency money in the ARRA, how do we help spend it in a way that greats good jobs? Van: The moment is now. The money is here. Now it is about doing it right. Because we could do this poorly and wrong. But let's do it well and right, by: Using our existing workforce development mechanisms, community colleges, and labor apprenticeship programs. Sticking to High standards. The best trained workers in this area are our labor members. Help them bring it to...

Remarks of the Vice President at the First Meeting of the Middle Class Task Force, Panel One

you two hours of training and that's it.  No, what we're talking about here is like what they did in L.A.  In L.A. there is electrical training (inaudible) southern California, a labor management partnership, jointly sponsored by a union in the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and a business coalition of private contractors.  The training required is like -- is required under an apprenticeship model, requiring over 1,000 hours of...

Remarks of President Barack Obama -- Address to Joint Session of Congress

will expand our commitment to charter schools.   It is our responsibility as lawmakers and educators to make this system work.  But it is the responsibility of every citizen to participate in it.  And so tonight, I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training.  This can be community college or a four-year school; vocational training or an apprenticeship.  But whatever the training...


Check out Secretary Solis’s comments from her interview with Betty Nguyen on ‘CNN Newsroom’ last Friday. Apprenticeship is mentioned as a training option to get people back to work.   Also noted are several references to One-Stops, training, and jobs in energy, health care and IT; and mention of the $250 million health care and IT SGA; and the $500 million Green SGA DOL will be issuing in June. 

What are your thoughts about Apprenticeship as one solution towards economic recovery?

The President last week held a news conference where he discussed the unemployment numbers and highlighted a new joint Education and Labor Web site for unemployed workers,, and ALSO mentioned Apprenticeship as a training option.  Check out the excerpt below that mentions Apprenticeship:

"... And to that end, I have asked once again every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training.  It can be community college or a four-year school; vocational training or an apprenticeship; but whatever the training may be, every American will need to get more than a high school diploma.  And we will be backing up that effort with the support necessary.  And we will ensure that by 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world...."

Click Here for a full transcript.