Understanding apprenticeships: How colleges and their business partners can take advantage of these high-impact programs - VCCS

Understanding apprenticeships: How colleges and their business partners can take advantage of these high-impact programs

Home|Blog|Understanding apprenticeships: How colleges and their business partners can take advantage of these high-impact programs

While traditionally thought of as a program for people working only in the skilled trades, apprenticeships have expanded to include all types of industries, including healthcare, IT, logistics and more.

When it comes to understanding apprenticeships, Dr. Jason M. Williams Sr., coordinator of apprenticeships and work-based learning for Virginia’s Community Colleges. explained that apprenticeships are the capstone of the work-based learning umbrella.

“Apprenticeships can be simplified to this: an individual who is a student, who also is an employee of a business, which is getting the related-technical instruction from our community colleges.”

Image of power line workers in the field

Williams shared that most jobs are becoming apprentice-able and recommends more businesses and colleges take advantage of the structure.

Apprenticeships follow a simple recipe: combine classroom learning with paid, hands-on work experience. The outcome? Thousands of required on-the-job training hours needed for many industry certifications and an ongoing pool of fulltime hires that are up to speed with a company’s culture and expectations.

“Not only are students learning, but they are getting an experience and getting paid. In between that, they are also getting hours toward a credential that is portable and certificates that are stackable,” Williams added.

With financial aid available through FastForward and G3, students can participate in eligible classes and courses for little

Image of welding students chatting with instructorto no out-of-pocket costs, and employers may be eligible for compensation –reimbursement up to $3,000 from the Commonwealth Registered Apprenticeship Future Talent (CRAFT) grant and the Apprenticeship State Expansion (ASE) grant programs.

It is a win-win situation for all parties involved, and the Virginia Department of Labor Industry (DOLI) is working to make it easier for businesses to apply for approved apprenticeship programs.

“We did labor market statistics last year for all 23 colleges and counties within each college region, and believe it or not, 86% of businesses within those areas were 19 employees or less,” Williams said. “Most of the surrounding counties consist of small businesses, so trying to create a relationship with these businesses is challenging. It is difficult to find businesses with time and resources to dedicate one or two people to have supervision over these new students coming to collaborate directly with them in a DOLI-approved registered apprenticeship program.”

Image of welding grinding away

That said, businesses don’t have to start with a full-fledged program. Pre-apprenticeships and youth programs can serve as building blocks for future apprenticeship programs.

“Getting students early, who work with CTE programs in high school, creates a pathway, so the students have already heard of the business and have started to learn what to expect,” Williams said.

For community colleges considering launching or expanding apprenticeship offerings, Williams offered this advice to help streamline the process:

  1. Pick your strongest, most in-demand programs that have a solid record of success.
  2. Reach out to your local DOLI representative and involve them early in the process. They are available to answer your industry-related questions and ensure you check all of the boxes in the beginning stages of your program’s development.
  3. Start with a small cohort of students (three to five) and maintain a close relationship with them throughout the program to better understand what went well and what can be improved upon in the future.
  4. Educate local businesses about apprenticeships and let them know that your college is RTI-approved with an apprenticeship learning accreditation.

If you’d like to learn more about creating an apprenticeship program at your college, please contact Dr. Jason M. Williams, Sr. directly. Additional information, including recorded Zoom meetings and slide decks from Williams’ “Strengthening Apprenticeships” presentation on November 16th, are also available upon request.


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