7 Steps to a Successful Apprenticeship Program

In 2014, President Obama’s Advanced Manufacturing Partnership piloted an apprenticeship program with Alcoa, Dow Chemical and Siemens and two colleges in California and Texas to customize training and close the skills and unemployment gaps. The three companies partnered with the Manufacturing Institute on an “Employer’s Playbook for Building an Apprenticeship Program.” An excerpt follows.

1. Build the business case. A strong business case for apprenticeship will secure leadership buy-in, detail cost and time requirements and promote accountability for success. Identify stakeholders and outline milestone dates for implementation. The business case should be based on your goals for building your workforce.

2. Partner up. Collaborating with the right partners allows you to leverage existing networks and learn best practices. Partners could include local community colleges and high schools; company coalitions; and public entities and labor market intermediaries, such as local chambers of commerce.

3. Focus on the framework. Designing a program to build the skills your organization needs is crucial. Classroom curriculum will introduce theory and concepts, while on-the-job training reinforces and further builds knowledge; the two should work in tandem. Make sure to invest in a collateral support network that includes mentors, coaches and peers.

“Set clear metrics for measuring success and a system for monitoring program performance.”

4. Be smart about marketing. Common overseas, apprenticeships are viewed as less than desirable in the U.S. Invest in creative branding to attract candidates
and target multiple groups with unique approaches.

5. Choose wisely. Develop a fact-based, multi-step, structured selection process that will gather information from many sources, including résumé, standard screening tests, formal interviews and simulations.

6. Track your progress. Set clear metrics for measuring success and a system for monitoring program performance. Monitor your apprentice’s success as you would an employee’s—through fact-based feedback and performance assessments. Be sure also to assess the effectiveness of classroom training and make changes where necessary. Flexibility is key, particularly in the startup year. If something isn’t working, change it.

7. Have a transition plan. Ideally, all apprentices will have the opportunity to move into full-time roles with the company. Once those positions have been identified, the onboarding plan should be developed well in advance to ensure a smooth transition. Guide these new employees through the process with coaching and celebrate the apprentice’s achievement and make sure they know they are valued.