How to Start a Manufacturing Apprenticeship Program

November 15, 2023
Written by: Micki Vandeloo

So, you have decided apprenticeships are the way to recruit and retain your skilled talent.  Great decision!  As I outline in this article, there is evidence your company will grow as a result of offering apprenticeships for your key positions.

But, what’s next?  Where do you start?  First, you must understand the requirements of an apprenticeship program.

Manufacturing Apprenticeship Program Requirements

  • Related Technical Instruction (RTI) – Apprenticeships must contain RTI related to the skill(s) you are trying to teach. RTI can be delivered either in a classroom or online setting.  The length of the RTI is determined in large part by the level of skills you wish to train to.  Some manufacturers structure milestones within their RTI program (for example, Level 1, 2 and 3 training with accomplishment of certain classes required to advance to the next level).  Usually, RTI lasts between 2 and 3 years and an RTI should lead to at least one industry recognized credential.
  • On the Job Training/Mentoring – The second requirement is that there is an element of on-the-job training (OJT) under the direction of a mentor from the company. Mentors can be more experienced employees or supervisors.
  • Progressive Wage Increases – The third and final requirement of an apprenticeship program is that you as the employer offer progressive wage increases as part of the apprenticeship program. These can be aligned with the tiered skill level approach noted under RTI, with a wage increase when each level is increased.  To register an apprenticeship at the state or federal level, there is no specific level of wage increase required, just that apprentices are paid more at the end of the apprenticeship than at the beginning.

Options for Structuring Your Manufacturing Apprenticeship Program

Now that you understand how your apprenticeship program needs to be structured, you must decide how you will best design a program to meet your company’s needs.  You really have two choices, and this decision depends on whether you want to develop a custom program that suits your particular RTI needs, or if you want to work with someone using a pre-determined curriculum.

Option 1:  You need a custom program

If you want someone to evaluate the skills you need and develop an apprenticeship program to meet your specific needs, check out an Apprenticeship Design Consultant.  Our favorite in the manufacturing sector is RADD Training.  The team at RADD Training is full of expertise in designing, registering and administering a custom apprenticeship program.  They also provide mentor training and software designed to help you track apprentice progress through the program and facilitate reporting to the Department of Labor.

Advantages:  RTI is customized to your company’s needs and you get personal assistance throughout the process.

Disadvantages:  There is a cost to obtaining this assistance that would be over and above the wage and training cost to deliver the program.

Option 2:  You can work with a “canned” apprenticeship program

 Many state apprenticeship departments and manufacturing associations offer pre-designed apprenticeship programs for various common manufacturing jobs.  One example would be welder apprenticeships.  The pre-designed program would provide a pre-designed welding training, typically through a local community college or other education provider, as the RTI, and then you would be responsible for the OJT training and progressive wage increases.

Advantages:  Quicker program implementation, assistance typically offered at no cost to the client.

Disadvantages:  Fewer choices for training content, less hand holding.

Please note that these options are not always mutually exclusive.  Some states, for example, offer “canned” programs that allow you to customize a portion of the RTI. Congratulations on the decision to offer an apprenticeship program!  I hope the information above helps you get a great start to your efforts!


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