Setting Up Apprenticeships

  • What is a Registered Apprenticeship?
  • Getting Started
  • Establishing an Apprenticeship Training Committee
  • Establishing Training Standards
  • Registering the Program with the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Apprenticeship
  • Selecting and Registering Apprentices
  • Tracking the Apprentice’s Progress
  • Credit for Prior Experience
  • Revising Your Apprenticeship Program
  • Muskegon Community College’s Role
  • Additional Offerings
  • How to Reach the MCC Staff

What is a Registered Apprenticeship?
An apprenticeship is the passing of skills and knowledge from one generation to the next. It is a formal training agreement whereby an apprentice will receive the education and on-the-job training necessary to make him/her proficient in a chosen craft. The documents that outline the apprenticeship agreement between employer and apprentice cover all aspects including starting wage, specific on-the-job training, college-level related training, periodic pay increases and qualifications of instructors.

A formal contract (the Apprenticeship Training Agreement) is entered into using a form prescribed by the Federal Office of Apprenticeship. When the apprentice and the employer have agreed to the terms of the apprenticeship training program, the contract is forwarded to the regional office for approval, thereby “registering” the apprenticeship.

There are several hundred recognized job titles that can be the focus of a registered apprenticeship. Each job title has assigned to it the minimum number of on-the-job training hours required to be completed, and all titles require a minimum of 144 instructional hours in related training each year for the term of the apprenticeship.

While the structure of an apprenticeship is mandated by the U.S. Department of Labor, the apprenticeship training program is actually owned by the employing firm and may be personalized to fit the employer’s needs.

Getting Started
Step one of the process deals with selecting an appropriate job title. Although the apprenticeship training program must be in pursuit of a “registered” job title, the actual content of the training is personalized to fit the day-to-day operations of the employing firm. A machine tool apprenticeship at one firm may look different from that of another because of the different day-to-day operations each does.

NOTE: It is to the advantage of all area employers to work with their local Office of Apprenticeship to standardize training for a particular craft as much as possible. This is best illustrated and clarified in examining the startup process for creating a registered apprenticeship.

Step two of the process deals specifically with defining what skills and knowledge apprentices within a firm must acquire. There are four basic steps to setting up a registered apprenticeship:

1.   Establish an apprenticeship committee
2.   Establish standards of training for the apprenticeship, i.e., what training apprentices will receive.
3.   Register the apprenticeship with the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Apprenticeship
4.   Select apprentices and submit them to the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Apprenticeship

Establishing an Apprenticeship Training Committee
The apprenticeship training committee or supervisor is the driving force behind a firm’s apprenticeship programs. This group of people should include anyone who could provide valuable input in setting up what training an apprentice should have to create the finished product the company desires. Represented in this group should be skilled professionals now working in the trade to be apprenticed (journeymen), human resources staff, production supervisors, union representatives, and anyone who can provide direction in seeing the program runs smoothly and contains the most effective training component.

Typically one person from each area, creating a team of three to five people would be appropriate. Smaller organizations may have fewer, and larger organizations may have more. In some organizations, because of their personnel structure, an apprentice supervisor who is familiar with the overall needs of the program may act as the apprentice committee, working with key individuals in the organization.

If an organizational meeting is held, minutes should be recorded to reflect the members present and the intent of the apprentice committee. The records of this first meeting become a permanent record of the apprenticeship program’s history. If an organizational meeting results in the appointment of an apprentice training supervisor, this should also be recorded in writing. When members of the committee are added or deleted, or the apprentice supervisor changes, a follow-up document should be authored so that the current committee members or supervisor is always accurately recorded.

It is possible that a firm may have more than one apprenticeship program in place. Larger firms might have machine tool craftsman, plumbers and pipe fitters, electricians, and so on. The firm should decide if additional committees are to be established or if one committee with specific members responsible for specific trades will suffice.

Establishing Training Standards
While the apprentice committee will have authority over every aspect of the apprenticeship program, including apprentice selection, starting wages, etc., its first duty is the actual creation of the program. This is where the selection of a supervisor by committee members becomes important. Two things must be decided:

1.  What on-the-job skill training is necessary?
2.  What formal classroom-related training is necessary?

Early in this process, the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Apprenticeship area training representative should be contacted. The representative will provide invaluable guidance in formulating standards that represent a quality training program and are consistent with the programs at other organizations in the region. The training representative in your area will provide a list of courses and program examples that compliment specific on-the-job training schedules.

The apprentice committee will decide what skills are to be taught to the apprentice. It will determine the amount of time the apprentice will spend on each task to acquire these skills. They will also decide what related training, in the form of classroom instruction, should accompany on-the-job training and how that instruction is to be provided.

NOTE: Remember, every apprenticeship-able registered trade has assigned to it the minimum number of hours required for on-the-job skills training. In addition, each apprenticeship must include a minimum of 144 hours of related classroom instruction per year. (A four-year apprenticeship would then require 8,000 hours of on-the-job training and a minimum of 576 hours of related instruction.)
Once these elements of the program have been determined, the firm is ready to submit their program for registration by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Registering the Program with the U.S. Department of Labor,Office of Apprenticeship
When the standards for apprenticeship training have been developed, the employing firm sends a copy to their Office of Apprenticeship regional representative. A simple cover letter on company letterhead introducing the firm and their desire to register their program should accompany the forms. Looking at the title to be registered, the representative will review the application to see that the on-the-job training and related training in the new standards represent a valid path for the apprenticeship-able trade.

When the new apprenticeship program has been approved and registered, the employing firm is notified in writing by the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Apprenticeship. At this time the employing firm may begin to recruit and enroll registered apprentices.

Selecting and Registering Apprentices
One of the functions of the apprentice committee is to establish the manner in which apprentices are selected. Selection criteria and screening methods are at the discretion of the employing firm, as long as no employment laws are violated. The employer may want a minimum time on the job for an individual to be considered as an apprentice. The employer may want a minimum education or require a skills proficiency exam and recommendations from supervisors. The employer is free to set any minimum standards or require any combination of qualifying criteria for apprentice selection, as long as no employment laws are violated.

Once an apprentice candidate has been selected, it is easy to complete his/her registration. The apprentice and the employing firm will complete U.S. Department of Labor (Employment and Training Administration) Form ETA 671, the “Apprenticeship Agreement” and forward it to the regional BAT office. When the apprenticeship has been approved, a copy is returned to the employing firm, signed and stamped by the Office of Apprenticeship representative.

Tracking the Apprentice’s Progress
The employing firm must establish a process for tracking the apprentice’s progress. The on-the-job training at each specific task must be recorded so that credit for completing each segment is given when due. Eventually the apprentice will have completed all related training and all on-the-job skills training and a Certificate of Completion of Apprenticeship will be awarded. It is important the apprentice’s work performed be accurately recorded. Also, the related training to be accomplished must be similarly tracked. If the training is to be provided by an accredited college-level institution, a transcript of classes completed is adequate documentation. If any other source of related training is to be used, such as in-house training, again some system to quantify and record this training must be established and maintained.

Credit for Prior Experience
You will see on the apprenticeship agreement form the apprentices can be given credit for prior work experience and related training. This can be a valuable tool when an employer wishes to enroll an apprentice but does not have the proper ratio of journeymen-to-apprentices to support it. The selected individual can enter a nonregistered training program, identical to that of the registered program. When another slot for a registered apprentice becomes available, a simple filing of a completed apprenticeship agreement form, including credit for work and education already completed, will establish that individual as a registered apprentice.

Working closely with your Office of Apprenticeship area training representative in cases such as these is very important. In order to maintain the integrity of your training program, documentation for any credit given must be provided to the Office of Apprenticeship’s satisfaction.

Revising Your Apprenticeship Program
As new technologies are developed and the focus of your firm’s work changes to remain competitive, you may see a need to change your apprenticeship program. This is easily done by a written request for change to the Office of Apprenticeship. On your company letterhead and over the signature of one of your apprentice committee members simply state what change you wish to make and included a brief explanation as to your motives. For instance, if the nature of your firm’s business now incorporates more work on NC/CNC equipment, you may want to restructure your training to reflect this need. Create a revised version of the portion of your program that is affected and send this to the BAT with your cover letter.

Muskegon Community College’s Role
Beginning with this brief document that provides an overview of the apprentice training system, MCC will provide whatever assistance possible to any inquiring firm. Our apprentice training staff will be happy to work with your firm and the Office of Apprenticeship to introduce your staff to the apprenticeship process. As a first-rate educational institution, Muskegon Community College can provide your firm with the related training necessary to support your apprentice’s education.

Additional Offerings
If your employees need training, but aren’t ready for apprenticeships, Muskegon Community College can assist you in customizing programs to meet your company’s specific training needs. Individualized curriculum in many applied technology areas is also available.

How to Reach Us
If you are interested in apprentice programs and /or other specific training programs at MCC, please write or call:

Jared Olson
Apprenticeship and Internship Coordinator
Office of Academic Affairs
Muskegon Community College
221 S Quarterline Road #1112
Muskegon MI 49442
Phone: (231) 777-0300
Fax: (231) 777-0452