Historically, apprenticeship is an agreement through which the apprentice gains instruction and support in exchange for work. The apprentice learns with masters of the trade, craft, or profession and begins an occupational career while contributing to the productivity of the enterprise. This concept of apprenticeship is long in tradition and is embedded in a full range of occupations in the United States and around the world. In every apprenticed occupation, the apprentice is instructed and supported at the same time he or she works. Student apprenticeship is contextualized learning in a specific career area.
In Vermont there are three forms of apprenticeship options that are referenced here: Student Apprenticeship - set-up and managed by the Vermont Agency of Education, and Registered and Pre-Apprenticeship programs set-up and managed by the Vermont Department of Labor.
Definition of Student Apprenticeship
In 1993, the Vermont State Legislature authorized student apprenticeships as a way of learning academic and technical skills while a student is earning a high school diploma. The statute defines a student apprenticeship program as "a skill-based education program which coordinates and integrates classroom instruction with a structured, work-based learning experience. The individual receives academic instruction and training in a skilled occupation which will prepare the student for post secondary education, advanced training or direct employment in a position higher than entry level. A student apprenticeship is not a Registered Apprenticeship which must be registered by the state apprenticeship council under law. A student apprenticeship may, though, lead into a registered apprenticeship. It may be a multi-year program and the curriculum must be approved by the State Board of Education. A student apprenticeship may or may not include financial compensation. In Vermont, a student apprenticeship must be arranged and supervised by a licensed student apprenticeship coordinator. That person is a licensed professional educator whom the State Board of Education finds qualified to plan, implement, and evaluate a student apprenticeship program. In most cases, the local area technical center's co-op coordinator is also the student apprenticeship coordinator. A student apprenticeship is usually set up when a student wants training in an area not covered by their area's technical center's offerings or where there are not enough students to make starting a new technical program feasible. A student apprenticeship may also be created when there are only a few job openings in a specific career area and no formal training programs exist.
Definition of Registered Apprenticeship
A Registered Apprenticeship program is sponsored by an employer or, in some cases, a labor union. The VT Department of Labor is the "registration agency" and ensures that all program guidelines are met. All Registered Apprenticeship programs must include paid on-the-job training, classroom training called "related instruction", and a progressively increasing wage scale. Apprentices are hired by the employer and can work part-time if they are high school students. In Vermont, there are registered apprentices in more than 20 different occupations. However, the vast majority are in plumbing, electrical and child care development. The minimum age for participation in Registered Apprenticeship is 16, although some programs require apprentices to be 18. Apprenticeship programs vary in length between 2000 and 10,000 hours, depending upon the skill level of the occupation.
Definition of Pre-Apprenticeship
Pre-apprenticeship means simply a program that teaches basic technical and job readiness skills in preparation to enter a Registered Apprenticeship program. A pre-apprenticeship program can take many forms. A pre-apprenticeship program can provide classroom training and hands-on labs related to an apprenticeship occupation. It can also include paid work experience. The best pre-apprenticeship programs are set up with close collaboration between schools and a Registered Apprenticeship sponsor. Many pre-apprenticeship programs enable students to earn credit toward the completion requirements for a Registration Apprenticeship program.
Benefits to Students
An apprenticeship gives students an opportunity to connect what they've learned in the classroom to a real world job and learn all aspects of a trade. It increases the high school choices for students and upon successful completion, a student may receive advanced placement in a registered apprenticeship or in a college program. At graduation, a student who completes a student apprenticeship receives credit for both academic and occupational accomplishments.
Students who are enrolled in a Registered Apprenticeship are afforded a structured training opportunity. Apprentices are mentored on the job by a fully-trained individual and receive training in accordance with a written training outline. While most apprentices also attend classroom training in the evenings, the related instruction component can be deferred for high school students until after graduation. All hours worked while still in school are recorded.
Students benefit from pre-apprenticeship by learning skills and behaviors that will lead to success as an apprentice. Students who have completed a pre-apprenticeship program are much more likely to be hired and registered as an apprentice.
Benefits to Schools
Apprenticeships increase practical hands-on learning options offered to students. They can provide a way for a student to learn skills in an area not offered currently in the school or in any other formal training program. Often, an apprenticeship will help a school meet a student's learning style and career needs. A successful apprenticeship will also create good working relationships with the businesses in a school's area.
Benefits to Employers
Apprenticeships help businesses train future workers when it is hard to find skilled workers, especially in areas where no training or educational programs in that career area exist. Mentors at the work site can become better employees. Many employers report that when a veteran employee is passing along their skills to an apprentice, it re-energizes their work in a unique way.
Employer sponsors of a Registered Apprenticeship program benefit from a highly skilled work force. In the plumbing and electrical trades, the program enables employers to ensure that employees qualify to take the journey level licensing exams. Offering a Registered Apprenticeship program also helps employers recruit and retain employees.
Sponsors of the Registered Apprenticeship Program benefit greatly by collaborating with a pre-apprenticeship program. Students who complete pre-apprenticeship understand the rigors of the occupations and already have entry level skills needed for the occupation.
Setting Up a Student Apprenticeship
Identify Potential Student Apprentices
Disseminate information to students who may be interested in being a student apprentice, including students who have completed some technical education. Ask guidance counselors to notify you when a student has an interest in an area where no technical education program or academic class exists. Let students know of current student apprentice opportunities. Remember that a student apprenticeship must be supervised by a licensed student apprenticeship coordinator. If you are not licensed, then refer the student to the appropriate person.
Recruit a Business Partner
Check to see if there are any companies which practice the specific trade in the skill area. Also contact trade associations such as the Associated General Contractors, Vermont Subcontractors Association, dealer associations, etc. Make a list of potential sites for the student apprenticeship and contact all sites personally. A student apprenticeship is an intensive commitment and will require a strong partnership between the school and the work site.
Draft a Student Apprenticeship Plan
Upon recruiting a business partner to enter into an apprenticeship agreement, draft a student apprenticeship plan. The plan is a highly detailed training plan based on industry standards and includes prerequisite education and training, industry competencies, related academic training linked to academic standards and evaluation procedures. Work with the participating industry partners to refine the plan until satisfactory to both the school and employer. Work with the school to determine how much school credit will be awarded for completion of the student apprenticeship.
Obtain Approval for the Student Apprenticeship Plan
A student apprenticeship is guided by a student apprenticeship plan based on industry standards. This plan outlines the learning components of the apprenticeship and serves as a basis for instruction and evaluation. Present the draft
plan to the your local vocational-technical center regional advisory board for review and approval; obtaining the signature of board chair. After your local board has approved the plan, forward the draft to the Vermont Department of Education for presentation to the Vermont State Board of Education for official approval. Once approved, the plan can be formally put into action.
A student apprenticeship is a serious commitment. Talk with the student about the proposed career and what they will be expected to do and to learn. Discuss with the student their own strengths and weaknesses and if the apprenticeship is a good match. Discuss the student's future career goals and how the student apprenticeship will help them reach those career goals. Make sure that the student has the prerequisite skills needed for the experience and the appropriate clothing and accommodations needed for the particular work site.
Prepare the Employer
Assist the employer in identifying a qualified mentor at the work site. A mentor should be skilled in the craft, skilled in teaching, and have a temperament to work with young people. Provide all the necessary information to the employer
and mentor, including any legal or insurance issues about which they should be aware. Some schools have provided formal training on working with students to mentors and employers when the school has more than one student
apprenticeship in place.
Implement the Plan
Schedule the student's work days based on how much time is needed to learn the skills outlined in the student apprenticeship plan. Apprentice hours are set according to the employer's schedule and the employer's business hours. Make the schedule replicate true working conditions at the work site—full days, if possible. A coordinator will need to work closely with and negotiate with both the school and employer. Schedule a day and time that is convenient to visit the employer at the work site. This will give you an opportunity to discuss any questions the employer might have as well as giving you an opportunity to become familiar with the site where your student will be working. Talk with the employer about how the student's safety will be ensured. If a student needs accommodations at the work site, agree on who will make the arrangements. Discuss with the employer legal and risk management issues. Make sure the student has health and accident coverage and that the school and employer have the appropriate insurance to reduce their risks. Areas of instruction related to the apprenticeship should be coordinated and provided to the student apprentice. For example, if a student needs algebraic skills at the work site, arrange the student's schedule to include an algebra class. If a student needs keyboarding skills, a student may receive tutoring before or after their work day.
Ongoing Monitoring and Student Evaluation
The coordinator must maintain regular contact (weekly is best) with the student to assess progress, conduct, commitment, and to ensure that the work site is providing the agreed upon learning opportunities. The coordinator should have regular contact with the apprenticeship site, particularly with the mentor, to gauge the direction of learning and the level of satisfaction with the program for all involved. Formal evaluations should be conducted at regular intervals, during which the student, mentor, and coordinator review the student apprenticeship plan. These evaluations should gauge the level of competence related to the identified industry standards and evaluate the student's general workplace skills. From these evaluations, the direction of short-term training should be identified and agreed upon.
Evaluation and Reflection
The final evaluation and assessment should be based on the competencies in the student apprenticeship plan. Identify specific skills the student has mastered and report them in a way the student can use them to connect to the next
step—a registered apprenticeship, a job, or further education. Assess the experience with the employer, mentor, and student, and use the information to improve future student apprenticeships. All participants should receive recognition. The apprentice and coordinator should thank the employer and the school may want to formally recognize the employer with a certificate. At the completion of a successful apprenticeship, the coordinator should contact the Vermont Agency of Education to receive a Certificate of Completion which can be presented to the student.
How to Help Students Enroll in a Registered Apprenticeship Program
Realistically, the most opportunity for Registered Apprenticeship for students is in the plumbing and electrical fields. If you have a student with a strong interest in one of these occupations, you should begin by viewing the list of Registered Apprenticeship sponsors on the VT Department of Labor web site at www.labor.vermont.gov . Click first on "job seekers" and then on "apprenticeship". The list of employer sponsors is in the right hand pane. You can contact any of the sponsors to discuss the possibility of a Registered Apprenticeship.
You can also contact one of the VT Department of Labor apprenticeship field representatives to discuss your student. While placement is not the role of the apprenticeship field representatives, they can be a helpful resource as they are often aware of apprenticeship openings. Contact information for the apprenticeship field representatives is also found on the web site listed above.
How to Set Up a Pre-apprenticeship
Schools can contact Registered Apprenticeship sponsors directly to inquire about the interest in collaborating to set up a pre-apprenticeship program. Guidance can also be obtained by calling the VT Department of Labor Apprenticeship Program at 828-5082.
Connecting Student Apprenticeship to the Classroom
It is important to enhance the student apprenticeship experience by connecting it to classroom learning and to academic standards. Connecting activities can take many forms and should take place at all stages of the experience.
• Students research the career field and specific organization in which their apprenticeship takes place.
• Students write about their preconceptions and expectations related to the organization in which their apprenticeship will take place.
• Students and teachers and/or the student apprenticeship coordinator discuss professional standards for behavior and dress.
• Teachers emphasize practical applications of the concepts and skills taught in class.
• Students learn the academic and entry level job skills they will need in the apprenticeship.
• Students and teachers and/or the student apprenticeship coordinator develop a student apprenticeship plan which includes learning objectives that are linked to the academic standards.
• Students learn higher level job and employability skills in the apprenticeship site.
• Students observe and participate in practical applications of academic concepts.
• Students work towards achieving individual goals and objectives.
Seminars. Seminars provide students with opportunities to better understand their student apprenticeship experiences and enhance their learning. Seminar schedules can vary from three meetings per term to as often as once a week. Curriculum can include:
• Job search skills and techniques (such as resume writing and interviewing skills);
• How to develop goals and objectives;
• Reflective assignments (such as weekly logs and journals);
• Education and discussion on workplace issues such as sexual harassment, workplace ethics, managing conflict, responding to criticism, labor laws, discrimination, and professionalism;
• Workplace skills and techniques related to student placements;
• Guest speakers;
• Round-table discussions;
• Collaborative learning activities;
• Term projects in which students extend beyond the work experience through in-depth investigation; and
• Career exploration activities, including informational interviewing and research on continuing educational opportunities.
• Students write about the differences between their expectations and the realities of the workplace.
• Students and teachers discuss the connections they see between classroom learning and the workplace.
• Students write, revise, and send thank you letters to the employer and their work site supervisor/mentor.
• Students may use their learnings from the apprenticeship in a culminating activity.
• Students and teachers and/or the student apprenticeship coordinator together evaluate the student's progress toward the learning objectives.
• Students continue their career development which may include a job, a registered apprenticeship, or further education.