Apprenticeship offers an “earn-while-you-learn” pathway to career development for people new to the workforce. Industries, such as heavy construction, have been successfully utilizing apprenticeship to develop talent and maintain a robust workforce for many decades.
More recently, a variety of new approaches and innovations have changed what apprenticeship programs look like and have expanded the number and variety of job roles for which apprenticeship can be applied. This is especially true for the Transportation industry.
Meeting the needs of a rapidly evolving industry has been challenging for today’s employers in the Transportation industry. Business leaders are helping to identify talent gaps and build resources, like apprenticeship programs, to grow the pipeline of talent entering the Transportation workforce.
“Transportation Industry apprenticeships are increasing in demand, thanks to the competent training and mentoring fostered by employer partnerships, with community colleges and technical institutions leading the way,” said Jay O’Connor, Public Service Administrator at the Illinois Department of Employment Security.
(1) This is not your grandfather’s apprenticeship.
Dr. Thomas Ritchie, Program Manager with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), notes that the apprenticeship paradigm has changed drastically in recent years. “It is not your grandfather’s apprenticeship,” he said. But, as Ritchie also noted at the October 2016 Workforce Development Summit of the Federal Transit Administration, work needs to be done to change the perception of what apprentices are. Today, apprenticeship programs cover a wide range of non-traditional industries, with Transportation being one of the newcomers to the field.
“Apprenticeships are experiencing a modern renaissance in America because the earn-while-learn model is a win-win proposition for workers looking to punch their ticket to the middle-class and for employers looking to grow and thrive in our modern global economy.” — U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez
(2) Companies that sponsor apprentices receive measurable improvements to their bottom line.
Apprenticeship is a proven talent development strategy that answers the skills gap, builds loyalty, reduces turn-over rates, and helps increase productivity, according to Dr. Rebecca Lake, Dean of Workforce and Economic Development at Harper College. Employers that utilize apprentices report higher productivity, higher retention rates and a substantial return on investment.
“The Registered Apprenticeship program we have developed ensures that the transition into new careers n trucking is smooth. It has enabled us to attract and retain safe and productive drivers.” ~ Duane Boswell, Vice president of driver recruiting, TMC Transportation.
(3) There is training and support available in every state to develop and grow apprenticeship programs.
The U.S. Department of Labor awarded the American Apprenticeship Grants totaling $175 million in 2015 to expand apprenticeship programs. Then, in October 2016, an additional $50.5 million in grants were awarded to help 37 states expand apprenticeship programs.
An example of state-level support can be seen at the Illinois Department of Employment Security, which supports ALL bona fide apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs. There are over 120 partnerships listed on their Apprenticeship web sites at for job seekers, and for employers and trades.
There are also opportunities to offset the costs of running an apprenticeship program. Grants are available through the U.S. Department of Education and the GI Bill Program. President Obama set a goal of 700,000 Registered Apprenticeships in the U.S. by 2020, and currently there are about 500,000.
For information on resources available read, “The Federal Resources Playbook for Registered Apprenticeship.”
(4) Membership has its benefits for sponsors of Registered Apprenticeship programs.
Any employer with a Registered Apprenticeship program can be part of their local workforce investment board, which sets policy and determines where funding goes.
(5) Apprenticeship programs can be sponsored by Community Colleges.
Select community colleges have become sponsors of Registered Apprenticeship programs in the U.S. and more are following suit. This emerging model reduces the administrative burden and streamlines the process for all of the participating companies.
“It’s win-win-win,” said Melissa MacGregor, Manager of Workforce Grants at Harper College in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, IL. “The students get training and certification and have no debt when they graduate. The companies get young employees with the skills the company is specifically seeking. And, the community colleges create partnerships with industry and attract more students that they wouldn’t otherwise have enrolled; very desirable students, who stay for the duration and complete what they’ve started.”
For more information about options available to community colleges, visit the Registered Apprenticeship College Consortium website.
(6) Mentoring an apprentice raises employee morale.
Not only does apprenticeship facilitate the transfer of knowledge from experienced employees to the apprentices, it also has been shown to boost workplace morale.
According to Lake, apprenticeship works particularly well when an employee who is nearing retirement is assigned as a mentor to an apprentice. The two-to-three-year timeframe of an apprenticeship allows that important knowledge transfer to take place before the older employee is lost to retirement.
But, beyond being an investment in maintaining organizational knowledge, employers also find that it fosters employee engagement by demonstrating to the mentor that his or her experience is valued. Further, mentoring is an effective way to instill the company mission among the employees, since mentors transmit values as well as expertise.
(7) Transportation apprenticeships span a wide range of careers.
Transportation apprenticeships can be found in:
Careers in this area include such occupations as Marine Electrical, Maritime Welding, Marine Mechanical, and Marine Engineering.
“The registered apprenticeship pathway is the gold standard for the shipbuilding, repair, maintenance and modernization sector of the maritime and transportation industry,” according to Barbara Murray, Director and Principal Investigator for the National Science Foundation Southeast Maritime and Transportation (SMART) Center. “Apprentices leave college with a certificate or degree debt-free, with valuable industry credentials, on-the-job experience, and years of earning full-time pay and benefits. It’s an incomparable route for students to start on a great career path and for employers to grow their own workforce.”
One example includes the Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education, which, since 2003, has used a Registered Apprenticeship program to prepare over 3,000 U.S. Mariners. This is the largest program of its kind for entry-level seafarers in the U.S. Participants who complete the training and graduate in good standing from the program are guaranteed jobs as Merchant Marines. Students may also receive college credit recommendations for successfully completing certain sanctioned courses. In addition to licenses and post-secondary credit, the program also offers a complete high school equivalency program (GED), adult basic education and study skills, and English as a second language (ESOL).
Harper College in Illinois is launching a Registered Apprenticeship program in Supply Chain Management in January 2017. Apprentices will work three days a week and attend classes two days a week. After two-and-a-half years, the apprentice earns an A.A.S. degree in Manufacturing Technology with a Specialization in Supply Chain Management-Logistics with up to six industry recognized credentials from the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals.
Hiring military Veterans is a focus of J.B. Hunt, a company that has committed to employing 10,000 Veterans by 2020. As a Registered Apprenticeship Program provider, the company offers the CDL-A Hiring Program and the Military Finisher Program. The first caters to Veterans who are interested in pursuing professional driving as their civilian career, while the latter is a fast track program for those who have experience driving heavy equipment during their service time.
Through the CDL-A and Military Finisher programs, Veterans are paid a stable income while they complete orientation, driving school, and behind-the-wheel training. They assume their responsibilities at either a local or regional Dedicated Contract Services or Intermodal fleet. As a participant in the 12-month J. B. Hunt National Apprenticeship Program, one may also be eligible to receive a GI Bill Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA) payment from the VA in addition to his or her paycheck.
Heavy Construction- Operating Engineers
Apprenticeship for construction careers building transportation infrastructure have been around for decades. Instruction leading to a journeyman credential can be offered at a community college or a union or non-union training facility.
Occupations in this area include Transit Coach Operator, Bus Maintenance, Rail Vehicle Maintenance, Elevator-Escalator Maintenance, and Signals Maintenance.
More apprentice opportunities are planned in this sector. Under the Transit Apprenticeship Initiative organized by the Transportation Learning Center, participating agencies will build or expand apprenticeship programs.
Apprenticeship provides industry leaders with a unique opportunity to directly influence and shape the future of their workforce. In a time when many industries are struggling with a diminishing talent pool due to attrition from retirement and a lack of visibility among new employees entering the workforce, new models of apprenticeship offer an ideal solution for transferring knowledge, growing career awareness, and attracting talent.