Smart Workforce System Integration Expands Access to Apprenticeship | Maher & Maher
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Smart Workforce System Integration Expands Access to Apprenticeship

Today, we’re sharing how states are working to integrate apprenticeship in the workforce system and pointing you to resources to help your own efforts. It is no secret that expanding access to work-based learning, and especially apprenticeship, takes extensive alignment and capacity-building work across programs and partners at the state and local levels. The workforce system has many different entry points – which is a great benefit to job seeker and business customers – but also means that staff representing various programs and levels need to have the know-how to connect individuals with existing or new apprenticeship opportunities and businesses to work-based learning ecosystems.

The role of the workforce system is much more than just informing job seekers and businesses of apprenticeship opportunities. It must integrate its processes with those of its partners in order to deliver programs, policies, and resources that connect, fund, and support job seekers' entry into and successful completion of an apprenticeship program and create a vital talent development pipeline for business. This approach requires that the workforce system and its partners look holistically at each customer’s needs as well as understand, align and leverage each partner’s available services and resources. This smart integration and alignment will build apprenticeship-driven career pathways for individuals and talent pipelines for employers.

Through Maher & Maher’s work with states and regions across the country, we have helped states respond to three common challenges to achieving smart integration and the partnerships necessary to expand system knowledge and capacity around apprenticeship, including:

  • Identifying the different roles and responsibilities around apprenticeship across the workforce system

Who conducts business engagement and outreach?How do we streamline business engagement? Who helps organizations develop standards and register their programs? Who recruits new apprentices and helps build a diverse apprentice pipeline? Which programs can financially support related instruction and other components of apprenticeship? There are many questions and often too few answers to ensure partners know how to come together to effectively inform and serve customers through apprenticeship.

  • Embedding apprenticeship into workforce system practices

How do states and regions identify and promote available apprenticeship programs?How do local workforce centers ensure apprenticeship is offered as a solution to business and an opportunity for job seekers?An integrated system needs to ensure all workforce access points have the knowledge to connect customers to viable apprenticeship opportunities.

  • Creating sustainability and ownership in the apprenticeship process

How do we demonstrate the value proposition of apprenticeship as both a tool to provide workers with career pathways and businesses with the talent they need to prosper? How do we show apprenticeship program partners that it is not overly burdensome or risky for them and define and sustain their role in expanding apprenticeship? The components and requirements of apprenticeship can seem overwhelming to some partners who have never worked with it before or do not see how they fit into or benefit from the process.

Many states are tackling these challenges head-on. Michigan and Illinois established Apprenticeship Navigators who work locally to build staff capacity on apprenticeship; define a clear process for working across business services, case management, and U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) Office of Apprenticeship staff; and develop local business understanding of apprenticeship as a talent development solution. Iowa facilitated extensive discussion and collaboration across state and local workforce partners to establish clearly defined processes for integrating apprenticeship into local service delivery through key functions such as in-take, referral, and placement. And other states, such as Florida, are making significant investments in training across partners and programs to understand the value of apprenticeship and to empower staff to collaborate locally to define processes for expanding access to apprenticeship. Then there are states like Colorado that have weaved it into a broader work-based learning strategy.

Although this work is challenging – it is systems change, and we all know change can be hard – there are resources to support the effort. Through a project with USDOL, Maher & Maher developed tools to help state and local workforce systems assess current efforts and make improvements:

We hope you find these ideas and tools helpful as you continue to integrate and innovate to expand customer access to apprenticeship!

For more information about Maher & Maher’s work in supporting state systems integration and alignment to build apprenticeship-driven career pathways, please contact Lynn Bajorek at lbajorek@mahernet.com.

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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