Brief Overview of Specific Apprenticeship & Pre-Apprenticeship Programs

By Salvatore Lorenzo – Published June 10, 2021 in Workforce Monitor –  Subscribe to the WFMonitor eNewsletter

In part II of our series on apprenticeships, we look at several programs that are investing in outreach to minority populations and high schoolers as well as those developing career pathways for adults in the healthcare, childcare, technology, and construction industries.

Editor’s Note: For a broad overview on the current state of U.S. apprenticeships, read part-one of our two-part series. 

Outreach to Underserved Populations in Michigan Medical Assistant Program
In the growing-in-demand field of medical assistant occupations, the West Michigan Works! Medical Assistant Registered Apprenticeship Program –  offered by Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) and Muskegon Community College (MCC) – provides 16 hours of classroom experience and 24 hours of paid work experience weekly over the course of a semester. Open to entry-level GRCC and MCC students, the program covers full tuition costs through scholarships and/or employer contributions. The program awards a Medical Assistant certification upon completion and connects students to employment with health system providers that extends beyond the duration of the program. Wages for students while enrolled start from $11.20/hour and increase to no less than $13.00/hour upon program completion. 

In general, according to Jobs for the Future, community college apprenticeship programs frequently lack diversity. For instance, when the GRCC program launched in 2016, 14 of the 18 recruits enrolled were White. To develop outreach to minority populations, GRCC partnered with trusted community organizations. Among the partners were: Urban League, Hispanic Center of West Michigan, the West Michigan Academy of Arts and Sciences, West Michigan Hispanic Center, and Steepletown Neighborhood Services. Through these organizations, the program became available to individuals in local minority neighborhoods where unemployment rates reach as high as 25%. By 2017, the program’s second cohort was more inclusive, as “just under half of the 15 new apprentices were White.” 

“This [outreach] not only benefits individuals, but it benefits employers and our community,” said Julie Parks, executive director of workforce training for GRCC.  

Childcare Apprenticeship in Colorado
In Colorado, there is high labor demand for childcare workers. In addition, according to a Colorado Public Radio report, “low pay, challenging working conditions, and difficulty accessing traditional higher education pathways plague the field.” 

Red Rock Community College’s Childcare Development Specialist Apprenticeship program offers an “earn-and-learn” opportunity to Coloradans interested in pursuing a career in childcare. The program “requires 306 education hours and 4,000 hours of on-the-job learning” and awards participants with a Child Development Specialist designation from the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL). Additionally, for adult learners, the program credits previous related work and educational experience, encouraging individuals who may have left the field to return for higher wage opportunities. Program participants receive progressive wages, with at least 50 cent wage increases every six months. Overall, the program supports 38 apprentices, 38 mentor teachers, and 33 employer sponsors. 

Tech Sector Apprenticeship in San Francisco
In the tech sector, New America highlights San Francisco’s TechSF, an initiative run by the city’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development in partnership with 12 educational and community organizations and supported by $8 million dollars in grants from the USDOL. TechSF “provides employer engagement services, pre-apprenticeship training, and financial incentives to support ongoing mentorship for the apprentices and other trainees it places with tech employers.” The initiative’s framework is based on a sector academies model used by the city’s CityBuild Academy, which has supported hundreds of trainees enter well-paying construction career pathways, “often starting with apprenticeships.” 

In San Francisco’s competitive tech sector, qualified jobseekers are typically concentrated among a pool of individuals with 4-year degrees from prestigious institutions.  Also, tech-sector applicants are generally White or Asian, creating a lack of diversity in the workforce. To increase the supply of qualified workers, TechSF has implemented pre-apprenticeships to expand access to courses that develop baseline computer science skills to high schools with diverse student populations. These courses are essential for getting students prepared for further coding boot camps and apprenticeships that act as recruiting grounds for industry employers. According to one former TechSF apprentice, “To even be prepared for programs like Hack Reactor (a reputable coding boot camp), it can’t be like 0 to 100 right away. You should know 40 percent of it, the basics, the fundamentals, before you start.” 

NYC Construction Pre-Apprenticeship for High Schoolers
The Edward J. Malloy Initiative for Construction Skills is a “14-week pre-apprenticeship program that prepares high school seniors for entry into Registered Apprenticeship programs in New York City’s unionized building and construction trades.” This large-scale pre-apprenticeship recruits from 19 of the city’s career technical schools and serves, on average, 150 apprentices each year. The program provides individuals who complete the training with a direct-entry referral letter for union apprenticeships in the building trades, “which allows them to bypass a highly competitive public recruitment process.” Since 2001, the program has helped graduate more than 1,300 unionized apprentices, with approximately 700 being journey-level workers. 

As an independent nonprofit, the Construction Skills program works within the city’s Building and Construction Trades Council. Moreover, “Construction Skills staff serve as the intermediary between the city’s technical high schools, labor, and employers” and are responsible for the program’s administration and implementation. 

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