Defining Workable Education Models: A Closer Look at the “Terms of Engagement” for Apprenticeship Programs

As we struggle to find, or define workable education models that prepare people from different generations
with various backgrounds for today’s technical workforce, we add to the confusion, by not defining the “terms of engagement.” The need to find and use terms that express specific significant learning opportunities for students may seem a low priority task for educators familiar with the various term options, but this is not the case for people in, or just entering the technical education process. This is specifically the case when the term refers to some sort of work experience when educators, politicians, and manufactures use words and phrases like apprenticeship, apprentice-like, co-operative (co-op) education; internship; work-study; job shadowing; mentorship and work experience. Loosely tossing these terms around has two effects. First, when we mismatch the term and the reality of the term, it will cost them at least their time and usually their money. When we misuse one of these terms, it usually means we really don’t have a distinction among these terms, and then we try to generate policies and practices, that at best, do not meet student, or industry needs.

This will be a long term discussion that will include the definition of the terms above with accompanying common applications of where and how the term is currently used in Florida (which is not unlike how they are used across the U.S.).  This month, we will explore the very well defined apprenticeship programs. Our first recommendation to our readers is to avoid using the term apprenticeship unless it meets the characteristics presented below. In the coming months, we will continue the conversation by defining and discussing cooperative education, work-study, job shadowing, mentoring and part-time work terms and concepts. You are encouraged to use the FLATE Focus blog feature anytime during this series of discussion to share your own thoughts.   

According to the U.S. Department of Labor (www.doleta.gov), a registered apprenticeship program has a written plan designed to move an apprentice from a low, or no skill, entry-level position to full occupational proficiency. These programs must meet parameters established under the National Apprenticeship Act that are designed to protect the welfare of the apprentice. The Department of Labor’s, Office of Apprenticeship administers the Act and its promulgating regulations, or a State Apprenticeship Agency approved by the Secretary of Labor for federal purposes. Each program is sponsored by an individual business, or an employer association, and may be partnered with a labor organization through a collective bargaining agreement. Upon finishing the training program, an apprentice earns a "Completion of Registered Apprenticeship" certificate, an industry issued, nationally recognized credential that validates proficiency in the apprentice-able occupation. 

Apprentices are paid employees of the company from the first day of their program.  Typically apprentices
Image Source: Google Images
have a mix of classroom training and on-the-job training, as specified by the registered program. The training could be conducted in a company training facility, or at an educational institution partnering with the company. Some apprentice programs require specific college courses, or are aligned to college courses such that the completed apprentice program is eligible for a number of college credits that can be applied to a degree program. Who pays for the classroom-training portion (materials, instructor, tuition, etc.) of the apprentice program varies, but details are generally defined in in the “registration” papers. Generally, each program defines entry requirements, and most include a high school diploma, or GED, possibly a particular grade point average; aptitude testing, and/or other appropriate applicant filters.

Apprenticeship programs have traditionally been offered in highly skilled industrial occupations including those in construction and manufacturing. Today, large companies in some emerging health care technologies as well as specific occupations in information technology are starting registered apprenticeship programs. Due to the changing profile of industrial and technical workforce, it is now highly desirable for apprenticeship programs to include articulation pathways into academic and/or technical degree programs (both at the Associate and Bachelors levels). These pathways provide apprentice graduates, opportunities to move into supervisory and leadership roles in their companies, which generally require one, or both of these academic credentials.

Apprentice-like education models are generally industrially focused career, or technical education models that offer some of the characteristics above. If, an “apprentice like” program occurs in a high school, it generally means that students in the program have the opportunity to work in a company in their technical discipline for some amount of time during their high school program. The work experience may not provide any support, typically occurs in the summer of the sophomore and junior years, and true to registered apprenticeships, they are paid positions. They could be thought of as career focused “summer jobs,” tightly aligned to a high school technical course of study and many are coordinated by the educational institution and an affiliated industry partner. Of course, students must be over the age of 16 and meet the other legal requirements to work in the U.S.

In terms of this issue of the FLATE Focus, summer is here and there are lots of STEM “stuff” going on in Florida and around the country. Take advantage of student summer programs, educator professional development opportunities and for sure a bit of R&R.  Check the events on the FLATE home page (www.fl-ate.org) for some suggestions on the first two and we will leave the R&R options up to you. The latest sTEm puzzle solution is provided; please check out the collection of “congratulatory” notes that are included in this issue.