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Apprenticeship – Traditional Program on Today’s Cutting Edge


Apprenticeship – Traditional Program on Today’s Cutting Edge

Develop the People You Need, the Way You Need Them

Technological advancements in diesel engines and drive train components, not to mention advancements in cab design inclusion of more advanced electronic systems have many in the industry asking: “Where will the industry find technicians with the skills necessary to meet the challenges of the industry’s changing technologies”?

Another and equally important question is: “What can my company do to assure we have a continuous flow of technicians capable of meeting our maintenance requirements”?

The answer to both questions can be “Apprenticeship Programs”. 

Tech Schools do a tremendous job of preparing young people to fill “entry level” positions throughout the transportation industry and it is incumbent upon industry organizations: such as regional “Transportation Maintenance Councils”, industry suppliers, manufacturers and major fleets; to support these technical training institutions. 

While obtaining a diploma from a technical school is, by itself, a laudable accomplishment, it only acknowledges the recipient attended the training and performed sufficiently to complete the assigned courses, preparing the graduate for an “entry level” position.  Unfortunately that certificate does not guarantee him or her the knowledge and skills necessary to immediately deal with all aspects of the job.  Those skills can only be learned through experience on-the-job dealing with those unexpected and unique problems technicians face on a daily basis. 

There are opportunities aplenty for “experienced” technicians, those with multiple years of service who have the work experience and learned skills to immediately impact the quality of the employer’s maintenance program.  The “want ads” are full of such opportunities.  However, those same “want ads” belie another problem within the industry, one that is not often discussed; and that is “employee retention”, for in order to acquire that “skilled” technician he or she will more than likely will be lured from employment with another company. 

Studies show technicians stay with an employer an average of 5 to 6 years.    Those same studies also show a majority of those technicians, those who found employment away from their home area, will eventually migrate back to within 50 miles of where they began. 

Of course there are numerous causes for the transient nature of the technician.  Some relate to financial issues or working conditions, both which are an important aspect in employee retention.  But some also are the result of the absence of allegence.  Allegence, not only to the company, but to their co-workers; the feeling of belonging to a family.   The competency of those responding to “want ads” varies from highly qualified to barely qualified and finding the right individual to fill the requirements of the job is, at best, akin to hittng the bullseye on a dartboard from 30 feet.  And then there’s no quarentee they will stay.

So what is the solution.  One idea being discussed is for those in the Commercial Transportation Industry to initiate apprenticeship programs at all levels. 


Why initiate an apprenticeship program? 

Apprenticeship programs provide a good return on investment, by ensuring steady access to skilled workers familiar with the company’s procedures and standards.  Studies also show employees trained through an apprenticeship program become more productive, which means such employees spend their time contributing to the bottom line, not getting up-to-speed. 

Apprenticeship programs have also been shown to foster employee loyalty by demonstrating that their employer values them enough to invest their resources: i.e. time and money; to help them reach their career goals. Technicians trained in your business create skilled and experienced employees, many of whom will stay with the company for the long term.


How do you begin an Apprenticeship Program? 

First and foremost decide whether your operating budget allows for the establishment of an apprenticeship program.  An apprenticeship program is a “time-intensive” undertaking that combines on-the-job training with some classroom instruction and you should make sure your company is able to financially support, not only the designated apprentice, who by law is required to receive a least minimum wage, but the salary of the designated trainer as well.

Be sure to create a detailed outline of the terms and conditions of the apprenticeship program and make sure to include a list of the skills the apprentice is to learn along with an indication of how much time will be devoted to learning each skill.  Finally, be sure to identify who will be providing the training and list the qualifications of that individual.

Making “apprenticeship” part of your business plan is easier than you think. 

1. Assess your business requirements

Start by clearly defining the role an apprentice will play within your business and the skills you are looking for in a new employee.  Contact your local Technical School, or High School offering Apprenticeship Curriculum, and let them know you are offering apprenticeships.  Make sure the school’s program has a certified journeyperson/designated trainer capable and committed to training prospective students to meet your standards and business requirements. 

2. Research government grants & assistance available to employers

Adding an apprenticeship program is a smart business investment!  Just make sure to review the various forms of funding available for employers who choose to hire and train apprentices.  Contact your State Department of Commerce Apprenticeship and Training Bureau for information and assistance.  They can help you in setting up a successful apprenticeship program. 

3. Find candidates for your program. 

When you are ready to begin training an apprentice begin by promoting the opportunity within your organization.  There may be someone already in your employ who would make an excellent candidate.  If you go outside your business, begin by contacting local Technical Schools or High Schools who offer Apprenticeship Curriculum.  Qualified candidates can also be found with the assistance of organizations like trade and industry associations and through newspaper and trade magazine ads.

5. Allow and prepare for in-class portion of training

In addition to completing a minimum number of prescribed on-the-job hours of practical experience for each level of training, your apprentice may also be required to attend classroom training in order to achieve State certification.  Your State Department of Commerce, Apprenticeship and Training Bureau can provide assistance and will work with your apprentice to develop a schedule that will work for both of you.

6. Monitor your apprentice’s progress

Be sure to document and verify the hours worked by the apprentices in your program.  Each time an apprentice is called to attend technical training the hours and date must be noted.  Only the hours that are documented will count towards the hours required to complete the practical training component of your apprentice's training.


For more information regarding Apprenticeship Programs contact your State Department of Labor Apprenticeship & Training Bureau or the U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration.