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National Apprenticeship Week: Exploring opportunities in apprenticeship

November 04, 2021
By: Ashwin Shenoy

National Apprenticeship Week (NAW) will see its 7th annual celebration from Nov. 15 to 21 this year. Key individuals in areas such as government, industry and education will host events that highlight the importance of apprenticeship in the workforce. These events will showcase how apprenticeship programs can address challenges such as supply chain demands, public health issues, and advancing initiatives in diversity and equity — especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), there has been a 70 percent increase in new apprentices since 2011. While the number of new apprentices fell 12 percent from FY 2019 to FY 2020 — likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic — DOL found that 3,143 new apprenticeship programs were established nationwide in FY 2020, representing a 73 percent growth from 2009 levels.

  DOL is using NAW this year as an opportunity to highlight Registered Apprenticeship Programs (RAP). RAPs differ from Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Programs (IRAP) in terms of their components and requirements. Both programs, however, are validated by DOL or a DOL recognized State Apprenticeship Agency.

RAPs provide progressive increases in wage consistent with increases in skill; IRAPs are paid as well, although pay increases are a not required component. IRAPs do not require any on-the-job learning, while RAPs generally require a minimum of 2,000 hours or one year of on-the-job learning. They can be competency-based in lieu of a required minimum time, however.

DOL recommends that RAPs have a minimum of 144 hours of related classroom learning for each year an apprentice is in the program. For IRAPs, however, the respective industry sets the standards and requirements for the related classroom learning component.

DOL also recommends RAPs have a one-to-one ratio of experienced workers to apprentices in order to ensure a productive work and learning environment, although RAP sponsors can request an expanded ratio to satisfy occupational needs. IRAPs do not have a set ratio of experienced workers to apprentices. Regardless, they are required to provide mentorship opportunities for apprentices.

After the completion of either program, apprentices earn credentials conveying proficiency. RAPs award a nationally recognized certificate of completion from DOL or a DOL recognized State Apprenticeship Agency. IRAPs award at least one credential that is industry-recognized. Credentials from both programs count positively towards the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Credential Attainment Rate.

More information on National Apprenticeship Week can be accessed here.