The term “apprenticeship” has been used throughout history to generally describe a method of onboarding and training, traditionally seen in the building trades. In the first article of this series, I highlighted an increase in the use of the model in recent years, particularly in “non-traditional” industries, spurred by innovative business leaders and incentivization through public dollars.

Much of the renewed interest in apprenticeships has been in response to tight labor markets, skills gaps of new hires, and an aging workforce. Beyond these circumstantial motivations, however, there are many benefits for businesses and workers alike.

> Read more about the benefits of apprenticeships

Creating and Registering an Apprenticeship Program

Given that employment is central to the model, the training plans and program parameters are ultimately developed and facilitated by employers and industry groups. Businesses can administer their own program or connect with a group-sponsored apprenticeship that establishes common standards. Intermediaries such as JEVS Human Services can help businesses navigate the registration process, connect with existing sponsors and training providers, identify talent pipelines, and leverage resources to help support the implementation of an apprenticeship.

> Learn more about how JEVS can help you get started

To promote best practices and incentivize the creation of quality programming, the federal government provides a framework for establishing “registered apprenticeships,” defined by the following components:

  • An employer hires an apprentice in a full-time role, paying wages and benefits
  • It includes on-the-job training lead by an experienced worker, a mentor
  • Supplemented with “related technical instruction”—coursework with an educational provider, on-line class, in-house trainer, or a combination
  • Includes merit-based wages increases and results in an industry-recognized credential

These guidelines are based on relatively common, albeit to varying degrees, business practices currently used when hiring, onboarding, and upskilling new staff. This allows employers to base their “Standards of Apprenticeship”—the document detailing the process and benchmarks by which an apprentice becomes a fully skilled worker in a given role, on current operations.

Building Standards that align to your current business:

  • Develop a customized training plan that details the tasks and competencies to be mastered—most of which is listed in the “roles and responsibilities” of the job description
  • Identify the coursework to provide the technical knowledge and credentials necessary for the role—this can start with the “education/certifications” section of the job description and include continuing education requirements or benefits of many professional roles
  • Outline a timeframe for new employees to learn the basics and/or assessments of knowledge and skills gained—think “probationary period” and “performance reviews”
  • Establish merit-based wage increases aligned to the above milestones

When looked at in these terms, it can be surmised that all you really need to begin developing an apprenticeship program is a job description and intentionality (buy-in from all levels of the business is critical to this also, but more on that in a later post).

The Bottom Line

One of the most frequently cited concerns about implementing apprenticeship programs is the cost, both perceived and real. While there are associated expenses, many of them are not far beyond traditional employment approaches, especially when factoring in the cost of turnover and losses stemming from gaps in skills and experience in the workforce.

Apprentice wages and fringe are the largest ongoing expense; however, this can be offset in part by their production on-the-job and stepped wage gains. The time spent by mentors working with an apprentice is also a legitimate cost, although it can prove less expensive than mistakes by new hires who aren’t properly trained or supported. Additionally, there are public funds available to registered programs to help recover a portion of apprentices’ wages.

Another expense of the program is the related instruction, this can come in the form of tuition, training materials, curriculum development, or hiring an in-house instructor. The cost varies greatly depending on the role, however, many employers already provide some level of introductory training during onboarding or incentives such as tuition reimbursement for continuing education. Additionally, partnerships with pre-apprenticeship programs or educational institutions can allow for “advanced-standing” that can apply prior learning and credentials to these requirements.

The time and costs associated with apprenticeship programs vary greatly depending on several factors. However, as previously highlighted, there are numerous benefits to utilizing the model to invest in your workforce and JEVS is here to help you get started!

To learn more and follow upcoming posts, be sure to visit our Apprenticeships page and follow JEVS on social media.  

By Alex McNeil, apprenticeship navigator at JEVS Human Services, who has been working collaboratively to develop the infrastructure and resources to help advance apprenticeships in the Philadelphia region. McNeil studied Social Work and Political Science at Temple University and has ten years of experience as an educator and program manager in the workforce development field. 


Posted in Apprenticeships Blog