Finding qualified job candidates can be frustrating and time-consuming, especially when you’re searching for skilled workers. If this sounds like your situation, it may be time to consider an apprenticeship program.
Apprenticeships are growing in popularity across the United States, and with good reason: these programs benefit workers and business owners alike. Employees learn necessary skills while earning a paycheck, and employers develop a staff of qualified workers trained to their specifications.
This steady flow of talent can help companies maintain productivity and workflow. For example, when a senior employee retires or leaves, a trained apprentice might be ready to fill that opening right away. Apprenticeships are also useful in building loyalty among the employees you train, and in bolstering your reputation in the community. This is especially true if your program partners with a local school.
Apprenticeship programs are popular in many fields. Some are industries with a long history of apprenticeships, including skilled trades like electricians, plumbers, machinists, and builders. A few of the other top areas for apprenticeships are nursing, pharmacy, and information technology. All told, the U.S. Department of Labor estimates that more than a thousand occupations currently use apprenticeships.
Every apprenticeship program is unique, but they are generally governed by similar guidelines and regulations. They typically last one to six years, during which time your apprentices will be working and learning. This means on-the-job training combined with formal education such as high school or post-high school classes; online courses; or in-person courses at an on-site classroom or training center.
Apprenticeships can be run by employers; sponsored by professional associations; or administered by employer/labor partnerships.
Apprenticeship programs must comply with state and federal laws. Some industries also have management or labor organizations that set standards and supervise apprenticeship training. Make sure you understand and comply with any laws, regulations, or standards that apply to your program before you put it in place. These include:
• The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA): This law requires that apprentices are at least 16 years old and sign an agreement to learn a skilled trade.
• Wage regulations: Apprentices can be paid less than minimum wage. Usually, they begin at a third to half of the rate for skilled professionals, and their wages increase as they learn. Laws may require raises at given intervals, such after the first six months.
• State laws: Individual states may have laws about the number of working hours allowed and the minimum wage required. If an apprentice ever performs the work of a professional—say, during a worker shortage—the pay must usually be a professional rate.
A written agreement is useful for clarifying the terms of the apprenticeship for both the employer and the apprentice. This document should specify how the apprenticeship works; how long it will last; pay rates; and what work qualifies for pay.
The Department of Labor is a great resource for employers interested in apprenticeships. You can even formally register your apprenticeship program with the agency. The Department’s Office of Apprenticeship will then work with you to design a training program and curriculum that fits your business. They will also help connect you with job seekers in your industry. You may even qualify for state tax benefits. You can learn more about apprenticeship by visiting the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration.
You may not have considered apprenticeship as a staffing solution in the past. But it’s an option worth thinking about, especially if you’re having a tough time finding skilled professionals. Apprenticeship programs are a valuable investment in your employees, your industry, and the future of your company.