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  • Apprenticeship Programs Provide Training, Experience, Pay

    December 09, 2019 | By NACE Staff

    Best Practices
    An engineer shows an engineering apprentice how to work CNC precision machining.

    TAGS: best practices, spotlight

    Spotlight for Career Services Professionals

    Harper College’s New Registered Apprenticeships are flexible instruction programs combining job-related credit courses with structured on-the-job learning experiences.

    “First and foremost, an apprenticeship is a job,” explains Rebecca Lake, Harper College’s dean of work force and economic development.

    “It comes with extensive training and develops the apprentice’s transferable skills, which is beneficial to both the employer and the employee. In addition, the apprentice earns a competitive salary while learning.”

    Lake says the goal for Harper’s apprenticeship programs is to provide workers with advanced skills that meet the specific needs of employers.

    In 2015, Harper College launched its New Registered Apprenticeship programs after receiving an American Apprenticeship Initiative grant. Since then, Harper’s apprenticeship programs have served 202 students.

    Harper has nine registered apprenticeships, including those in:

    • Banking/finance
    • Computer numerical control precision machining
    • Cybersecurity/networking
    • Electromechanical technician
    • General insurance
    • Graphic arts print production
    • Industrial maintenance mechanic
    • Marketing and sales management
    • Supply chain management/logistics

    Eight of these are associate degrees. Cybersecurity/networking is the only one that is not; it is run out of continuing education, and it has embedded in it six CompTIA credentials.

    In addition to the tech grant, Harper’s familiarity with nearby Zurich Insurance was a catalyst in the development of the programs.  

    “Zurich Insurance was looking to start the first ever registered apprentice insurance program in the United States because it was having trouble finding underwriters and claims adjusters,” Lake explains.

    “[The firm’s] home office in Switzerland recommended using apprenticeships, which are not common here. Together, we developed an [associate in applied science] degree using Harper’s business degree, and we were able to develop their registered apprenticeship program.”

    Harper uses the same curriculum for its insurance apprenticeship program.

    “That’s how you sustain these programs and replicate them and grow,” Lake explains.

    “Every single insurance company takes these same courses. We now have four companies that are using this same curriculum.”

    Currently, 54 companies overall are working with Harper College in its apprenticeship programs. Only two—one being Zurich—have their own programs.

    “When we talk to companies, we ask about their needs and the skills gaps that exist in their industries,” Lake notes.

    “We work with companies that are having trouble finding employees to meet their demands. Because we are the program sponsor, I wrote the programs and Harper already had the curriculum. Then, we sent them to the state office of apprenticeship for approval. We do all the paperwork and I think that is attractive for some of the companies, especially the smaller ones.”

    She says she doesn’t write a registered apprenticeship program unless companies want it. For example, Lake says the Illinois Bankers Association called Harper College, and said it is having difficulty finding employees to move up and become loan officers and managers.

    “We met with seven of the banks and asked them what they want students to be able to do when they graduate,” Lake says.

    “There are three registered apprenticeships written off the AAS degree in business: insurance, finance, and sales and marketing. They have the same courses, except for those four concentration courses. Employers told us what they wanted to see in the program graduates, and we asked them to help us work and rework those finance courses. They did so with our program coordinator and some of her faculty, and they suggested assignments. So they help us set the competencies for the registered apprenticeship program as well as give input on those four concentration courses.”

    Apprentices who complete Harper College’s banking/finance apprenticeship:

    • Earn an AAS degree in business administration with a concentration in financial management;
    • Earn a certification from the U.S. Department of Labor indicating they are fully qualified for their occupation;
    • Gain at least two years of experience at an employer; and
    • Earn a salary and benefits during this time.

    Overall, Harper College’s New Registered Apprenticeship programs have an 85 percent graduation rate, and the collective GPA among all its apprentices is a 3.4.

    Lake says that there are several key elements that contribute to the success of Harper’s apprenticeship programs:

    • Outreach—Harper’s part-time outreach staff talk with employers regarding their needs and how Harper’s apprenticeship programs can provide solutions.
    • Training—Harper’s “train the trainer” course helps employer mentors enhance their skills to guide apprentices through their training and educational process. “The better the mentor, the better the apprentice,” Lake says.
    • Coaching—Academic coaches are embedded in the apprenticeship programs to meet with the apprentices, faculty, and the employers regularly, and support student retention and completion.
    • Continuous improvement—Each year, Harper asks its apprentices, faculty, and employers what is working well in the program and what needs to be changed or eliminated. It acts on that feedback.

    Because of Harper’s success in this area, Lake hears from community colleges across the country asking how to start up a similar program. Harper’s apprenticeship website includes many resources—such as program fact sheets, trainer manuals, and partnership agreements—for them to adapt and share with their potential apprentices and business partners.

    “I also tell them that they already have half of this done,” she explains. “They have their associate degrees or certificates, if they want to go that route, all ready. They just need to work the apprentices into that program and make the connections with employers.”

    NACE will hold a webinar about apprenticeships titled “Apprenticeships: Impact, Benefit, and Outcomes” on January 22, 2020 at 1 p.m. ET. Click here for more information or to register.  

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