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New reports provide insights into future federal apprenticeship, credentialing efforts

August 30, 2018
By: Robert Ksiazkiewicz

Two recently released, federally funded reports from the Urban Institute and Workcred provide insights into the Trump administration’s efforts to develop competency-based apprenticeships and new workforce credentials. Over the past year, the Trump administration has positioned these two workforce development approaches as the central focus of its workforce development planning.

Developed under a contract from the Department of Labor (DOL), the Urban Institute released the first set of recommendations for competency-based occupational apprenticeship frameworks. Separately, in partnership with National Institute of Standards and Technology Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NIST-MEP), Workcred – an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) affiliate – published a report to help strengthen the quality, value and effectiveness of manufacturing credentials in the United States.

The Urban Institute’s apprenticeship frameworks focus on 17 specific occupations across the advanced manufacturing, energy, health care, information technology and transportation sectors. Additional occupations will be addressed in future releases. Each framework is intended to simplify development and approval processes for competency-based apprenticeships, encouraging employers to initiate or increase their apprenticeship offerings, and to improve program quality and outcomes.

The report also provides insight into the template that the Urban Institute and DOL will use for competency-based occupational apprenticeships across all industries. They include:

  • Capturing what job functions the employer wants the apprentice to be able to perform well by the end of the apprenticeship;
  • Drafting what skills an apprentice would be required to demonstrate for those job functions at a high level based upon resources from employers, industry associations, and government resources;
  • Distributing drafts to employers, who make suggestions for improving the competency specifications; and,
  • Sending out a bulletin to apprenticeship training representatives to help employers and other sponsors establish registered apprenticeships.

In Examining the Quality, Market Value, and Effectiveness of Manufacturing Credentials in the United States, Workcred looked at how credentials are currently used in hiring and retention practices. The researchers found that the use of credentials remains uneven and having a credential does not play a major factor in the hiring and promotion process. In fact, most manufacturers do not require industry credential during those processes.

The primary reason that credentials have been unevenly adopted in the manufacturing industry is due to a lack of understanding by manufacturers. The researchers found that many do not know about available credentials or the relevancy to their specific workplace. These manufacturers, however, report that they would consider adopting credentials if they were presented with more information about them.

For other manufacturers, credentials are not viewed as a relevant tool to identify new skilled personnel or as incentives to improve the quality of their existing workforce. These respondents indicated they would consider utilizing credentials if they believed that the credentials were customized more to skills needed in their facilities.

The Workcred study also focused on how credentialing can be improved to advance the manufacturing industry. The researchers outlined several recommendations to improve the quality and increase the adoption of a manufacturing industry credential. They include:

  • Improving understanding about the content, use, and value of credentials;
  • Expanding the use of quality standards for credentials;
  • Strengthening relationships between employers, education and training providers, and credentialing organizations;
  • Adding an employability skills component to existing and new credentials;
  • Creating credentials that focus on performance and address new roles; and,
  • Increasing the number of apprentices and expanding apprenticeships to more occupations.


apprenticeship, workforce