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Apprenticeship 101: Earn While You Learn
The following information is prepared by John Ladd, administrator of the Office of Apprenticeship within the Labor Department's Employment and Training Administration.
How would you like to receive a paycheck while being trained in a high-skill occupation that has a starting salary around $50,000? If that sounds appealing, you might want to consider participating in a Registered Apprenticeship program.
What is an apprenticeship?
Most Americans are familiar with the concept of an apprenticeship: the apprentice, or trainee, works for a period of time under the guidance of a mentor or expert in a field, gradually accumulating knowledge, skills and hands-on competency. Another way to think of it would be the opportunity to “earn while you learn” in a structured environment.
The Registered Apprenticeship system − overseen by my office − works with state agencies to set standards for apprenticeship programs, ensure high-quality training and develop new programs.
Editor’s note: Want to know what a modern apprenticeship program looks like? This New York Times article has a good story about a program in South Carolina.
How is an apprenticeship different from other job training and education programs?
To start, apprentices receive a paycheck from day one that is guaranteed to increase as their training, knowledge, skills and abilities progress – no small benefit in an age of ballooning college costs and student loan debt. Apprenticeships (which can last from one to six years) also connect education and work simultaneously: apprentices gain industry-recognized credentials, and in many cases, college credits that can lead to an associate or bachelor’s degree.
Those credentials in turn often lead to a long-term, well-paying career. Over a career, someone who has gone through a Registered Apprenticeship program earns an estimated $300,000 more in salary and benefits than someone who did not. You can search for apprenticeship opportunities and program sponsors here. (Hint: look for the Register Apprenticeship symbol.)
What is an employer’s role?
An individual business or an employer association usually sponsors a Registered Apprenticeship, sometimes in partnership with a labor organization. These “industry sponsors” of apprenticeships may include larger employers, labor-management organizations or the military. Industry sponsors make significant investments – an estimated $1 billion per year – to design and execute Registered Apprenticeship programs, provide jobs to apprentices, oversee training development, and provide hands-on learning and technical instruction for apprentices.
The benefits of sponsoring apprenticeships are that employers get a highly skilled workforce with higher productivity, high morale and lower turnover.
What’s ahead for apprenticeships?
Modern apprenticeships are on the cutting edge of innovation in preparing a skilled workforce for today’s industries. We’re continually expanding the Registered Apprenticeship system to meet 21st-century needs in expanding industries like health care, information technology and advanced manufacturing, as well as in industries like construction where apprenticeships have a long history.
To meet these needs, the Secretary of Labor’s Advisory Committee on Apprenticeship recently developed strategies in a “21st Century Vision for Apprenticeship.” We encourage you to learn more about both the history and the very important future of apprenticeships on our website:www.doleta.gov/oa.