ERIC Identifier: ED347403
Publication Date: 1992-00-00
Author: Wonacott, Michael E.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Adult Career and Vocational Education Columbus OH.
Apprenticeship and the Future of the Work Force. ERIC Digest
Changing demographics, changing technology, and increasing international
competition have combined to make the preparation of workers for the workplace a
critical issue today. One training strategy in particular is often cited as
holding great promise for improving workplace preparation: apprenticeship.
Apprenticeship has been very effective in preparing skilled workers, in the
United States and abroad. However, before vocational-technical educators can
capitalize on the benefits of apprenticeship as a training strategy, they must
know what apprenticeship is--and what it is not--and how its characteristics can
be imparted to other educational programs.
WHAT APPRENTICESHIP IS
The U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL)
Federal Committee on Apprenticeship (1992) defines apprenticeship as a training
strategy with eight essential components:
Apprenticeship is sponsored by employers and others who can actually hire and
train individuals in the workplace, and it combines hands-on training on the job
with related theoretical instruction.
Workplace and industry needs dictate key details of apprenticeship
programs--training content, length of training, and actual employment settings.
Apprenticeship has a specific legal status and is regulated by federal and state
laws and regulations.
Apprenticeship leads to formal, official credentials--a Certificate of
Completion and journeyperson status.
Apprenticeship generally requires a significant investment of time and money on
the part of employers or other sponsors.
Apprenticeship provides wages to apprentices during training according to
predefined wage scales.
Apprentices learn by working directly under master workers in their occupations.
Apprenticeship involves both written agreements and implicit expectations.
Written agreements specify the roles and responsibilities of each party;
implicit expectations include the right of program sponsors to employ the
apprentice, recouping their sizable investment in training, and the right of
apprentices to obtain such employment.
WHAT APPRENTICESHIP IS NOT
It is equally important to
understand what apprenticeship is not. In some European countries,
apprenticeship is a widely used form of vocational training for young people
(Brodsky 1989). In Austria, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom,
apprenticeship is a common path for transition from school to work. In the
United States, on the other hand, apprenticeship is not aimed at youth who are
completing school; rather, it functions far more often to provide upgrading and
retraining for adults who are already employed (Glover 1986).
Furthermore, apprenticeship is not a standardized, uniform institution in the
United States ("Apprenticeship" 1991-92). The DOL's Bureau of Apprenticeship and
Training oversees apprenticeship functions in collaboration with agencies in 27
states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.
Apprenticeship programs may be sponsored by employers, employer associations, or
jointly by employers and unions. Programs registered with state or federal
agencies offer apprenticeships in approximately 830 occupations.
In addition, apprenticeship is--in some respects--not widely used as a
training strategy (General Accounting Office 1992). Two-thirds of all U.S.
apprentices are in 20 of the 830 apprenticeable occupations; of those 20
occupations, all but three (corrections officer, fire fighter, and police
officer) are in the construction and metal trades. In addition, minorities are
underrepresented in apprenticeship programs (ibid.).
Moreover, apprenticeship is not closely and productively linked with
vocational-technical education in the United States (Grossman and Drier 1988).
Some apprenticeship leaders feel that vocational-technical training provides
inadequate preparation for the workplace. Apprenticeship leaders often have
little detailed knowledge of vocational-technical education, and educators often
lack such detailed knowledge about apprenticeship. In addition, leaders in both
vocational-technical education and apprenticeship can be influenced by issues of
control and ownership.
Finally, apprenticeship is not just a strategy that involves training outside
the classroom or training content strictly determined by occupational needs
(Federal Committee on Apprenticeship 1992). Apprenticeship is distinguished from
such training strategies--including cooperative education, tech prep, and summer
or part-time work experiences--by the unique combination of its eight essential
components. Although such other training strategies may have great value in
their own right, only apprenticeship produces fully trained, competent
journeypersons with the skills needed to perform effectively in the workplace.
THE BENEFITS OF APPRENTICESHIP
like other forms of work-based learning, can show significant benefits in
preparing workers for the workplace (Employment and Training Administration
1989). Learning in the workplace under the supervision of a master worker allows
full participation by students in the process of learning and working. Through
observing and commenting, students can build technical skills, experience the
sharing of tasks, and see how technical tasks relate specifically to theoretical
knowledge and interpretation.
Students are more likely to be able to understand the big picture. Students
can see for themselves how the technical task can be affected by the context in
which it is performed and how their own performance must take that context into
account. Such broadening of technical performance makes workers more skilled,
more flexible, and more able to contribute to workplace productivity. In
addition, students are prepared to acquire new skills later in life.
Other benefits accrue directly to students in apprenticeship and other forms
of work-based learning. Students can receive training and acquire new skills
while working and earning an income at the same time. For adults who are already
employed, apprenticeship may provide the only opportunity to advance into
higher-paying, higher-skilled jobs.
Work-based learning can provide numerous advantages for noncollege-bound
youth. These advantages arise from the closer linkages between school and work
that are typically part of work-based learning. Such closer linkages are
believed to lead to substantial improvements in the career options of noncollege
youth, to increase their on-the-job productivity, and to provide significant,
meaningful incentives for students to do well in school--and even to stay in
school (Filipczak 1992).
Apprenticeships also offer considerable benefits to employers and other
training sponsors, schools, and the community (Florida Council on Vocational
Education 1992). Benefits to employers and training sponsors include assistance
from trained educators in job analysis and training design, the active
participation of the school's testing and guidance professionals in program
recruitment, shortened training times and costs, and the opportunity to prepare
students to meet the individual sponsors' particular requirements. Schools
benefit by being able to provide educational opportunities outside their usual
physical, financial, and staff resources. Instructors, administrators, and
counselors have increased and improved contact with local employers and
Youth apprenticeships can be a visible demonstration of the role played by
the community as a whole in education. Youth apprenticeships can help increase
the number of students who make a successful transition from school to work,
reducing the number of economically unproductive members of the community. Local
job stability is enhanced when local students receive relevant and effective
training for local jobs. In addition, healthy youth apprenticeship programs can
help draw new industries and new employers into the community.
BROADENING THE SCOPE OF APPRENTICESHIP
How can the benefits
of apprenticeship be maximized? How can more workers and more students enjoy
those benefits? More people can take advantage of the benefits if the scope of
apprenticeship in the United States is broadened (Bureau of Apprenticeship and
Training 1988). Apprenticeships could be established in a wide range of
occupations and industries not currently considered apprenticeable. Candidate
occupations and industries tend to be high-skill and high-tech areas, with
consideration given to labor market supply and demand. In addition, the idea of
providing continuing training for skill updating through apprenticeship-type
programs has been proposed.
Many feel that the role played in apprenticeship by the federal government
and by education should be strengthened to increase program quality. Technical
assistance, program promotion, and tax incentives are among the specific
suggestions for an increased role for government; leadership and attention on
the part of government are also urged. An increased role for education centers
on the establishment and improvement of linkages between education and the
workplace. Through such linkages, industry could better communicate its concerns
and needs to education, educational planning could better reflect the realities
of the workplace, and the needs of minorities could be better served by
BORROWING THE COMPONENTS OF
Vocational-technical educators can capitalize on the benefits
of apprenticeship by borrowing those components of apprenticeship that are
associated with increased success in learning and earning. Like all work-based
learning, apprenticeship derives much of its effectiveness from its close and
strict association with the workplace. Workplace needs determine training
content, scope, and duration, ensuring relevance and timeliness. Apprentices
receive recognizable, universally accepted credentials upon completion, so that
they can benefit from their training wherever they go.
In many respects, these characteristics and benefits apply--at least in
theory--to many vocational-technical training programs. Good programs are always
carefully grounded in the world of work; they start from the needs of the
workplace to determine the content and nature of training and to provide
students with the specific knowledge and skills needed to enter the workplace.
Such effective and consistent linkages between training and work may be the best
way for educators to capitalize on the characteristics of apprenticeship that
lead to success in learning and earning.
"Apprenticeship." OCCUPATIONAL OUTLOOK QUARTERLY
35, no. 4 (Winter 1991-92): 27-40.
Brodsky, M. "International Developments in Apprenticeship." MONTHLY LABOR
REVIEW 112, no. 7 (July 1989): 40-41. (EJ 393 232)
Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training. APPRENTICESHIP 2000: THE PUBLIC
SPEAKS. Washington, DC: Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training, U.S. Department
of Labor, 1988. (ED 312 387)
Employment and Training Administration. WORK-BASED LEARNING: TRAINING
AMERICA'S WORKERS. Washington, DC: ETA, U.S. Department of Labor, 1989. (ED 323
Federal Committee on Apprenticeship. THE MEANING OF APPRENTICESHIP: WHEN AND HOW TO USE THE TERM. A POLICY RECOMMENDATION. Apprenticeship, U.S. Department of Labor, 1992.
Filipczak, B. "Apprenticeships: From High School to High Skills." TRAINING
29, no. 4 (April 1992): 23-29.
Florida Council on Vocational Education. THE BENEFITS OF APPRENTICESHIP: IMPLICATIONS FOR PUBLIC POLICY IN FLORIDA. Tallahassee:
General Accounting Office. APPRENTICESHIP TRAINING: ADMINISTRATION, USE, AND
EQUAL OPPORTUNITY. Washington, DC: GAO, 1992. (ED 343 010)
Glover, R. W. APPRENTICESHIP LESSONS FROM ABROAD. INFORMATION SERIES NO. 305.
Columbus: The National Center for Research in Vocational Education, The Ohio
State University, 1986. (ED 268 374)
Grossman, G. M., and Drier, H. N. APPRENTICESHIP 2000: THE STATUS OF AND RECOMMENDATIONS FOR IMPROVED COUNSELING, GUIDANCE, AND INFORMATION PROCESSES. Research in Vocational Education, The Ohio State University, 1988.