Building on National Apprenticeship Week: Next Steps | Maher & Maher
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Building on National Apprenticeship Week: Next Steps

Since the first National Apprenticeship Week (NAW) in 2015, the buzz around apprenticeship has grown exponentially, with more than 1000 events including tours, conferences, podcasts, webinars, and more, all promoting the benefits of apprenticeship as a talent and workforce development tool. The sheer amount of information, perspectives and advice shared during NAW can be overwhelming, and organizations that are either just getting started in building their programs, or looking to expand and improve, may need help drilling down to the most important lessons from the week.

Although there are different approaches to building a successful apprenticeship program, the hallmarks of success are consistent across all of them. Successful programs offer the right technical components: in-depth, customized training that includes work-based learning, compensation, formal education, mentorship, and a market-valued credential upon completion. They also offer a way to engage and secure acceptance from stakeholders through active collaboration with both internal and external partners. Finally, successful programs build in a data collection system that allows for continuous improvement to ensure the program can deliver the desired results.

At Maher & Maher, we have advised and supported the work of key contributors to building and sustaining apprenticeships including employers, community colleges, state workforce agencies, and community-based organizations. Through our experience, we have identified the following important lessons for organizations launching apprenticeship programs and the partners that work with them:

  1. Get the data.  
    Select the occupation for the apprenticeship based on data that shows strong demand in the foreseeable future. Make sure the occupation is one where employers are challenged in finding trained talent.
  2. Learn from others.
    Examples of apprenticeship programs for a variety of occupations are available from state workforce boards, trade associations, community colleges, research publications, and online at www.apprenticeship.gov.  Brent Weil, Vice President for Workforce Development at Argentum, the nation's largest senior living association, reflected, “Having our trade association provide an apprenticeship program reduces the risk of trying something new.  Rather than having to reinvent the wheel, our members can adopt what we’ve designed on behalf of the industry.  That saves everyone money and, even more importantly, time.”
  3. Find partners and collaborate. 
    Successful programs grow from successful partnerships, and success is amplified when each partner is able to use their strengths. Each organization must do their own internal stakeholder management to both identify those who will benefit most from the program and make them vocal advocates. It’s also important to have a lead who is responsible for delivering each element of the program. Identify what each partner brings to the table and draw on it. 
  4. Remember the learner. 
    Your goal is to invest in someone so that they can fulfill a need in a company.  In developing your program, consider how to customize the learning environment to fulfill your participant’s needs: a job with a career path, economic mobility, and supports to increase their engagement and retention such as transportation and childcare.  According to Dawn Braswell, Head of Apprenticeship – North America at the manufacturing company Siemens, “We want and need apprentices to be successful so we take great efforts to find the person with the drive to learn a trade as well as giving them the support needed to complete our program.”
  5. Pilot and expand. 
    Even large companies sometimes start with very small programs for a few apprentices with the goal of expanding over time. It is prudent to be sure that the partners are aligned, the training meets business requirements, the marketing matches the program, and student demand exists.

Incorporating the above lessons can help you develop a program that improves retention, increases productivity and employee engagement, delivers on a diversity initiative, and reflects your commitment to the community.

According to Mark Wagner, Vice President of Claims Learning at the investment and insurance company, The Hartford, “Apprenticeships have become part of our corporate sustainability strategy. The program helps us welcome diverse talent to our industry and improves our ability to influence learning as early as possible.” 

Perhaps most importantly, apprenticeships give people a chance to discover a new career. As Sue Kuraja, Vice President of Brokerage at financial services company MassMutual Arizona shared, “We’re building our program to help women from underrepresented populations gain a foothold in financial services – an opportunity that benefits both them and our organization.”   

Creating an apprenticeship program that works for your organization takes some work to get off the ground, but it can come with great rewards.

For more information on Maher & Maher’s work in building apprenticeship and other work-based learning strategies, please contact Mary Wright at mwright@mahernet.com and visit www.mahernet.com/work-based-learning.

Maher & Maher, an IMPAQ Company, is a specialized change management and talent development consulting firm based in New Jersey and Washington, D.C. Maher works with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration and other federal agencies to provide technical assistance to the public workforce system, expand apprenticeship programs, and on other key workforce and education initiatives. Maher also partners with states and regions across the country on sector strategies, career pathways, work-based learning, regional planning, and organizational strategic planning and training initiatives. For more information about our services, visit www.mahernet.com or contact us

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