Employers across economic sectors recognize that the most successful workforce preparation strategies are “work-and-learn” models – strategies that combine job-related instruction with hands-on application, skills assessment, mentorship and paid work with a pathway to employment.
When work and learning are aligned with industry-required skills, the benefits for students, workers, employers and the entire economy are clear and powerful. Members of the National Network of Business and Industry Associations believe that apprenticeship is one such effective work-and-learn model that can prepare a skilled workforce for all sectors in the economy – and many of them are promoting apprenticeship among their own memberships.
Held Back by Bureaucracy
Unfortunately, the federal system that supports apprenticeships is not providing a lot of value to these “new entrants” in the apprenticeship space. The fact is that employers in a wide range of business sectors find the government’s Registered Apprenticeship Program, as administered by the U.S. Department of Labor and State Apprenticeship Agencies, overly bureaucratic, cumbersome, rules-driven and costly.
As it stands, the program has not kept pace with the new jobs of the modern economy. If the Registered Apprenticeship System is going to work, it must embrace changes to support 21st-century, employer-driven work-and-learn models that are abounding economy-wide.
Many of the issues that prevent employers from participating in the Registered Apprenticeship Program arise from the arbitrary interpretation and implementation of regulations at the federal and state levels. They are exacerbated by the fact that the current system is a complicated patchwork of overlapping jurisdictions and rules.
In 27 states and territories, the registering agency is the Federal Office of Apprenticeship at the Department of Labor. In the remaining 28 states, territories and the District of Columbia, a State Apprenticeship Agency is responsible for registering programs that meet federal standards. After registration, apprenticeship programs are subject to ongoing oversight from the applicable federal or state agency.
Updating the System
To help move the program forward, the National Network just released Registered Apprenticeship Challenges and Solutions, which outlines a clear path forward for optimizing apprenticeship for the modern economy. The paper identifies specific challenges National Network members and their partnering employers have encountered with the current system and outlines solutions to encourage greater involvement by employers and industry sectors.
The National Network is making specific recommendations on how to remedy the system, including working more closely with business to update and simplify the regulations and reporting requirements, recognizing competency-based apprenticeship programs and improving access to federal resources.
With these reforms, coupled with a broader focus on competency-based work-and-learn, the National Network is certain that more employers will take advantage of government support for apprenticeships.
Stay Tuned for More
Many employers that are members of National Network associations have implemented successful work-and-learn models that incorporate key principles and components of competency-based apprenticeships. The National Network will soon release a playbook that demonstrates these proven approaches as the basis of a new model for apprenticeships – modern, flexible, effective and sustainable.