Education Week - February 14, 2018 - 6
SCHOOLS & THE FUTURE OF WORK
Go-Between Groups Smooth the Way for Apprenticeships
New-breed services take on range of tasks
It sounds great on paper: Schools
and businesses team up to offer students a chance at real-world work.
Teenagers get paid while they build
skills, and they earn credentials
that create new opportunities for
But in reality, those programs
require the coordination of many
moving parts-and sometimes a lot
of paperwork-to succeed. Increasingly, schools and businesses are
turning to a new breed of concierge
service that handles all those details.
These organizations help businesses set up apprenticeships-or
other forms of career-focused learning-and define the skills students
must master in order to earn specified credentials. They coordinate
with community colleges to dovetail
training with students' work experiences. They make arrangements
with local high schools so students
can divide their time among college
training courses, high school classes,
Not all these "intermediary" services function exactly the same
way. In Massachusetts, 16 regional
build partnerships between schools
and employers to craft curriculum
and to offer internships, job-shadow
days, and career exploration. In
Nashville, the nonprofit PENCIL
(for Public Education Needs Community Involvement and Leadership) enlists community and business partners to offer a range of
services, including career-focused
study in local high schools.
In South Carolina, the Apprenticeship Carolina program helps
businesses reach high schools,
community colleges, and the U.S.
Department of Labor to offer registered apprenticeships. When the
service set up shop in the state's
technical-college system 10 years
ago, there were 90 registered apprenticeships in South Carolina;
now, there are more than 1,000.
More than 28,000 people have completed youth or adult apprenticeships in the past decade.
"They walk us through all the
steps, help us with all the red tape,
to get our apprenticeships approved," said Vincent Lombardy, the
training and employee-development
manager at VTL Precision, an automotive-engineering company near
"Without them, we'd have to have
someone full time on our staff who's
really schooled in how these government systems work, all the paperwork," he added.
Apprenticeship Carolina can often
win federal approval for its companies' apprenticeships within a week
because Labor Department staffers
are familiar with its track record,
said Susan Pretulak, who leads Apprenticeship Carolina as the vice
president of economic development
for the 16-campus South Carolina
Technical College system.
The South Carolina model is one
that Labor Department officials
"want to replicate around the country," Amy Firestone, a senior adviser
in the department's apprenticeship
office, said last summer at Apprenticeship Carolina's annual "signing
day," an event that celebrates new
The role of intermediary organizations like Apprenticeship Carolina
is increasingly important as businesses-particularly small and medium-sized companies-search for
workers with the skills they need,
said Kermit Kaleba, the federal policy director for the National Skills
Coalition, an advocacy group that
focuses on career readiness.
There's a real value
in having a
or institution that's
able to serve that
Federal policy director
National Skills Coalition
Those companies often can't afford to set up their own internal
training programs and don't always
have strong relationships with
pipelines such as colleges or high
schools, he said.
"There's a real value in having a
dedicated individual or institution
that's able to serve that interface
role," Kaleba said.
A Changing Focus
In trying to coordinate the pieces
necessary for effective career-oriented learning, intermediary organizations reflect a major shift in
the national policy conversation.
Policymakers are increasingly
arguing that the country has been
too focused on getting students to
earn bachelor's degrees. They point
to the 30-million-plus jobs that pay
well and don't require the time and
expense of four-year degrees, and
they're pressing businesses and
schools to build pathways that lead
to those "middle skill" jobs.
President Donald Trump has
called for a major expansion of
youth and adult apprenticeships
and proposed a new, streamlined
approval process to make it happen.
President Barack Obama also
led an apprenticeship initiative,
6 | EDUCATION WEEK | February 14, 2018 | www.edweek.org
Joe Buglewicz for Education Week-File
By Catherine Gewertz
Keaton Turner, a high school junior, welds in an advanced manufacturing class last spring in McMinnville, Tenn. With
both apprenticeships and career-technical education programs like this one in Tennessee, schools and businesses
often need help matching students to industry needs and creating educationally valuable opportunities.
which sent $265 million into those
programs, including the first-ever
federal budget allocation for apprenticeships: $90 million in fiscal
2016. Congress approved another
$95 million in fiscal 2017.
Experts estimate that there are
about 1 million apprenticeships
in the United States today. Only
about half are registered with the
Labor Department. Registered programs require mastery of specified
skills, confer nationally recognized
credentials, and carry job-safety
and minimum-pay protections. Between 2013 and 2016, the number
of registered apprenticeships rose
from 375,000 to 505,000, according
to federal data.
Employers often place added
value on job candidates who completed registered apprenticeships,
since the requirements of those
programs are recognized industrywide, experts say.
"You get a journeyman credential
from the Department of Labor, and
that's gold. You're definitely going
to get looked at" in job interviews,
said Mitchell Harp, the dean of apprenticeships at Trident Technical
College, which works with Apprenticeship Carolina to coordinate
training for local apprenticeships
in the Charleston area.
But creating a good apprenticeship and getting it registered can
be a daunting process. When VTL
Precision wanted to get started
in 2014, Apprenticeship Carolina
dispatched one of its six regional
consultants for a sit-down meeting.
The consultant helped VTL leaders understand the Department of
Labor's standards and competencies for apprentices and customize
them to meet the company's needs,
Lombardy said. They worked
together to create a workplacetraining plan that met federal
requirements and meshed well
with technical courses offered at
Trident Technical College, he said.
Apprenticeship Carolina also
helps VTL submit the annual paperwork to receive state tax credits of $1,000 per apprentice, Lombardy said.
Many Moving Parts
Harp describes the way the K-12,
college, and employer pieces come
together through the technical-college system, where Apprenticeship
Carolina is based.
Representing Trident Tech, Harp
reaches out to local high schools to
connect students to employers who
offer apprenticeships. He also meets
regularly with local employers to
see if he can interest them in offering apprenticeships. Once they're
interested, he said, he connects
them with regional Apprenticeship
Carolina consultants who explain
and support the process. (The support is free but businesses must pay
their own apprentices.)
"Our local Apprenticeship Carolina consultant, I've got her on
speed dial," Harp said.
Apprenticeship Carolina does its
own reaching out to businesses and
high schools, even sending representatives into high school lunchrooms and career centers to connect
with students, said Pretulak, the
initiative's leader. said.
Once an apprenticeship is up and
running, Apprenticeship Carolina
coordinates the collection of documents that will be submitted to the
Labor Department to award apprentices their credentials.
Ty'Celia Young's case shows how
it works. A senior in high school,
she's in her second year of VTL Precision's industrial-mechanics program. When she masters required
competencies during her 10 to 15
hours of work each week, her VTL
supervisor signs off and updates
her file. When she passes required
courses in pneumatics, hydraulics,
and other subjects at Trident Tech,
the registrar there signs off and updates Ty'Celia's file. That collection
ultimately goes to the Department
of Labor for evaluation.
When the department awards
Ty'Celia her credential, she will
qualify for entry-level positions
doing maintenance in advanced
manufacturing, jobs that will likely
pay $14 to $20 per hour, VTL's Lombardy said.
Ty'Celia plans to enroll in a bachelor's degree program in mechanical engineering next fall, and she's
not sure yet whether she'll work
part time in her new trade while
she studies. But she said that her
apprenticeship has set her up with
valuable assets as she leaves high
school: college credits, a certificate
from Trident Tech, a nationally recognized credential, and two years
of paid work experience in a field
related to her career goals.
Tim Hardee, the president of the
South Carolina Technical College
system, said that the state's apprenticeship program also provides
valuable options that don't include
"It might be different than what
their parents viewed as a golden
ticket, that four-year degree. But
there are other ways to get that
golden ticket now," Hardee said. "We
see apprenticeships as a way to provide the workforce employers need in
the coming years, and youth apprenticeship is a way to start that early."
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