Workforce Resource: Registered Apprenticeship



Welcome to the fourth post in our series featuring some of the tools, resources and programs available in the mainstream workforce system, shaped by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and delivered through the national network of American Job Centers serving all U.S. job seekers.

It’s a complex, resource-rich system underutilized in refugee employment services. Higher is determined to change that so our clients benefit from new opportunities and employment services.

We’ll do the research you don’t have time for amidst managing client caseloads and employer relationships. You can focus on using highlighted resources to help your clients succeed in the U.S. workforce.

So far we’ve highlighted online tools that you can utilize in your job counseling and job development efforts, as well as On-the-job Training. In this post we’ll talk about the U.S. Department of Labor’s Registered Apprenticeship program.

Apprenticeships Are Making a Comeback


When you think of an apprenticeship, you probably think of a unionized position in a skilled trade. That’s because that was what the U.S. Apprenticeship program looked like when it started about 75 years ago.

Today there are more than 400,000 registered apprenticeships in more than 1,000 occupations.

Since 2014, the US has added more than 75,000 new apprenticeships, the largest increase in nearly a decade. Some of these are traditional apprenticeships in the skilled trades, but many are non-traditional apprenticeships in fields including Healthcare, Information Technology, Advanced Manufacturing, Transportation and Logistics and Energy. Learn more about DOL industry priorities here.

(Re)starting a U.S. Career Through Registered Apprenticeship

Registered Apprenticeship combines classroom-based learning with structured on-the-job learning. This federally funded “earn while you learn” training program allows employers to develop a highly qualified workforce and helps apprentices learn a trade while earning a living wage.

A Registered Apprenticeship can last anywhere from 1-6 years (most are 4 year programs) and always leads to a nationally recognized credential that is both portable and scalable.

This means that apprenticeships lead to even more opportunity for additional career advancement for job seekers who might choose to take their skills and credential to a different employer or another State.  They might also decide later to obtain a higher level credential as they advance further in their chosen career.

The Five Components of Registered Apprenticeship

While Registered Apprenticeship can be organized differently and customized to the needs of the employer, there are five components to all Registered Apprenticeship programs:  

A Quick-Start Toolkit: Building Registered Apprenticeship Programs, U.S. Department of Labor / Apprenticeship USA

Source: A Quick-Start Toolkit: Building Registered Apprenticeship Programs, U.S. Department of Labor

Are Registered Apprenticeships a Good Fit for Refugees?

Apprenticeships can be a great fit for refugees, particularly those with higher levels of English coming from more skilled backgrounds—whether that be a professional from a STEM industry or a “blue collar” worker with experience in the skilled trades.

Registered apprenticeships have the potential to function as a bridge that overcomes refugees’ lack of US work experience and helps them obtain a “Made in America” industry credential – all while earning a living wage.

Imagine what a difference it could make, both financially and emotionally, for some of our higher-skilled clients to be putting their skills to use, learning new skills, gaining credentials, and earning $5+ above minimum wage. (Most apprenticeship positions start around $15/hour).

Challenges to Anticipate

We believe this is a great opportunity, but it won’t be easy to access. As we’ve noted in past posts, the mainstream workforce development system is huge and complex. Many who work in this system are unfamiliar with refugees. In addition, apprenticeships work differently in different states and expertise is largely centralized in federal and state government.

It will take a significant amount of staff time to figure out how things work in your state or locality. One way that refugee employment programs have overcome this challenge is to assign a staff member or volunteer to be liaison to key stakeholders in the mainstream system, including American Job Centers (AJC), Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs), and state/city workforce offices.

With intentional planning and commitment, we believe it’s worth the time to overcome the challenge of access to mainstream programs like Registered Apprenticeship.

3 Ways to Explore Apprenticeship Opportunities

  1. Get to know you state apprenticeship office and other mainstream workforce development players in your area. Start by finding the office for apprenticeship in your state. This list includes all DOL apprenticeship contacts by state.  If you have a hard time connecting with the apprenticeship office, connect with staff at your local American Job Center, and they may be able to help connect you to the right person or organization to talk to.
  1. Search for local apprenticeship opportunities using the map available on the US Department of Labor’s website. You can also use the Apprenticeship Finder search tool on It may be strategic to begin intentional outreach efforts with companies and unions that you know have apprenticeships that could match client skills. Take a look at this list of current Apprenticeship grantees to see where apprenticeships may already be happening in your area.
  1. Talk to the employers that you already work with, and make sure they are aware of the federal Registered Apprenticeship program. Who knows? Maybe one of your employer partners would be interested in creating an Apprenticeship program specifically for refugee-background employees. Share this helpful toolkit and  for employers interested in creating Registered Apprenticeship programs.

Resources for Learning More

For more information and resources on Registered Apprenticeships, visit the ApprenticeshipUSA website.

Be sure to look at the ApprenticeshipUSA toolkit, where you can access eLearning modules on the Registered Apprenticeship program, as well as other information about setting up apprenticeship programs and/or marketing them to employers.

If you have any experience with placing refugees in apprenticeships, please email us at to share your insights on this career path strategy.

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Interactive Employment Resource Collection

This resource collection is long overdue. To access resources about any of the topics in the below graphic, simply click on the topic!

Please let us know if you have any youth resources to add so we can keep building the collection!

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Workforce Collaboration Case Study: Ready for Retail Training for Refugee Youth

Photo Credit: ACC-DEN

Photo Credit: ACC-DEN

ECDC’s African Community Center of Denver, CO (ACC) shares what they have learned through a very successful training program for refugee youth that partners with two American Job Centers, funds ACC’s retail customer service training program and builds workplace skills for refugee youth.

Read the case study online or download a PDF version if you prefer. You will learn

  • how and why ACC began partnering with mainstream workforce centers;
  • how to register as an Eligible Training Provider to gain eligibility to receive WIOA training funds for participant training;
  • how ACC’s Ready for Retail training program developed over time and what participants say about how they benefitted; and
  • some of the lessons ACC learned that you can replicate in your own efforts.
About Higher’s Workforce Collaboration Case Study Series

This case study, written by Higher Peer Advisor Carrie Thiele, ACC Training Program Manager, is the first of five that Higher will make available over the coming months to help us all learn from each other about successful strategies for strengthening our collaboration with the mainstream workforce system so that refugees can better access workforce services provided across the country for all U.S. job seekers.

If you are collaborating with the workforce system in your community and want to share what you’re learning with peers across the country, get in touch at


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Request for Peer Support for Higher

money tree

How are you collaborating with the mainstream workforce system?  We want to learn what’s working and share it with our network.

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act (WIOA) legislates the mainstream workforce system encompassing 2,500+ resource centers governed by local and State workforce boards.

WIOA is getting alot of buzz and includes lots of buzzwords. American Job Center (AJC). Workforce Development Board (WDB). Out of School Youth (OSY). On-the-Job-Training (OJT). 

Just the terminology alone can be confusing and overwhelming.

No matter what terms you use, refugees deserve increased access to the resources available for all U.S. job seekers.  We – the national refugee employment network- are in the best position to start building stronger bridges between the refugee resettlement network and the mainstream workforce system that houses all those resources.

There are a few well-known and long-standing examples. Higher has already begun to collect more from your peers in Washington, Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa and Virginia.  We know there are more examples, but we need you to help us find them.

Call to Action

Before 2015 comes to a close, send a quick email to or get in touch with Lorel, Daniel or Sarah. Nothing formal required.  Just tell us about your experience or that of another refugee employment program.  We’ll take it from there.

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11/4 Workforce Collaboration Webinar from ORR

peertaand an opportunity to help your peers and be a Higher guest blogger!

On November 4, 2015 from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m. EST, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR)  will host a free webinar “Connecting Refugees to Workforce Development Opportunities: Promising Partnerships and the New Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).”

Higher and 120 of your peers from around the country will be in Omaha for our Second Annual Refugee Employment Workshop.   Here’s how you can help the refugee employment network (and Higher) so none of us miss this opportunity to learn.

  1. Register to attend the 11/4 webinar. (Click here.)
  2. Get in touch with us at if you’re interested in one or more of the following: Take thorough notes, call Higher to talk about what you learned or draft a blog post to share  with the network.  We’ll be offering modest honorariums as a thanks for your help. 

The webinar will highlight the opportunities for refugee organizations to enhance services and develop new partnerships with workforce development agencies with the new Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. Common areas of service, performance metrics, and populations will be discussed to showcase the potential for national, state and local refugee agencies and organizations to enhance collaboration, partnerships, and deliver enhanced workforce programs for refugees.

Additionally, a speaker from the San Diego, California – International Rescue Committee will discuss the coordination and partnership between their organization and their local workforce investment board through their Connect2Work program, their Workforce Accelerator Grant, and Health Professions Opportunity Grant (HPOG) program in connecting youth and adult refugees to employment programs.


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5 Easy First Steps to WIOA Opportunities

Job Seekers from a Refugee Background

Our first Refugee Employment Infographic! Created by Sarah Vail.

If you aren’t feeling a little overwhelmed by all the webinars, toolkits and helpful information swirling around about the new Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), you haven’t been paying attention.

You’re not alone.

WIOA creates space for us to engage with the mainstream workforce system.  It’s also complex, confusing and implemented by a huge Department of Labor-funded system unfamiliar to many of us. The mainstream workforce system is gearing up to understand, interpret and implement WIOA, too. Now is the time to engage.

Where to start?

Here are the five things you can do this week. They’re all easy and draw on skills you already use every day in this work.

1.  Make contacts at your local Workforce Center.  The people working there share our goals of helping people find jobs.  They live in your community.  Some of them are probably your neighbors. Go to their office.  Meet them face to face.  Start a dialogue. No interpreter required.

2.  Prepare your case like you would for employers.  Think about what’s in it for THEM. You and our clients have alot to offer, but many workforce staff don’t know anything about us. It’s up to you to speak their language and convince them that refugees add value, just like we already do in our job development work.

3.  Download an Infographic Higher created to help you. 23 attendees at our NAWDP conference presentation thought these statistics were well-targeted and convincing. Be sure you leave contact information and a plan for next steps to keep the momentum going. (Our own infographic.  So cool.)

4.  Do your homework. There is a lot of information available.  Type WIOA in Higher’s home page search feature for links to the information we think will be most helpful.  You’ll get more out of the meeting if you’re well prepared.  Sounds like what we advise clients as they prepare for job interviews, right?

5.  Listen. Learn. Ask more questions about their work than you tell about your own. Try to understand their structure and identify other people you need to know – and convince. Think of it as an employability assessment that starts adjusting expectations.  Nothing new or scary about that.

Good luck.  Let us know how it goes at

Job Seekers from a Refugee Background

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Two WIOA Opportunities Available NOW


Graphic Credit:

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunites Act (WIOA) doesn’t go into full effect until July 2015, but it is already creating tangible new opportunities for refugee clients and agencies serving them.

Read below for new detail about a shifted focus in youth programming and a 5 year funding opportunity for healthcare career training.

Click here for additional background information about WIOA in case you missed previous Higher blog posts and a webinar.

Youth Programming:  Significant Shift in Focus to Older Youth

WIOA shifts the primary program focus of Title I youth formula programs to support the educational and career success of out-of-school youth (OSY), ages 16 to 24. A minimum of 75 percent of WIOA youth funds must be spent on OSY, an increase from the minimum of 30 percent under the former Workforce Investment Act (WIA).

With an estimated 6 million 16-24 year olds in this country not employed or not in school, WIOA youth programs will provide a needed continuum of services to help disconnected youth navigate between the educational and workforce systems.

Click here to read the entire Guidance Letter from the Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration (DOL-ETA) with clarification and detail about this important new emphasis in WIOA.

These two points included in a list of the possible types of clients speak directly to refugee client eligibility:

  • eligibility is based on age at enrollment, participants may continue to receive services beyond the age of 24 once they are enrolled in the program
  • …an individual [that]…is either basic skills deficient or an English language learner

The letter strongly encourages the mainstream workforce system to begin adjusting programming NOW and begin to identify sources of this newly emphasized population. Many refugees fall into this category.

How You and our Clients Can Benefit:  There are opportunities for us to offer assistance so that refugees can be considered in the planning phase.
“NOW” includes Summer Youth Employment Programs that are likely already advertising for applicants.

Health Profession Opportunity Grants (HPOG)

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Administration for Children and Families (ACF), Office of Family Assistance (OFA) is announcing a large funding opportunity supporting education and traning for occupations in the health care field,…that could also fund child care, case management and other supportive services, as appropriate.

The primary recipients of a previous round of funding (see page 2 of the announcement) were mostly mainstream workforce stakeholders and community colleges.  A possible role for resettlement agencies is outined in the announcement as follows on page 7 of the announcement:

HPOG programs can also include other partners that provide resources or expertise to better coordinate services and improve outcomes for program participants, such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Medicaid, legal aid, and especially services funded by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), such as Head Start, child care, domestic violence prevention, and refugee resettlement programs.

Download the full application here and visit the Office of Family Assistance/HPOG website for more details.

How You and our Clients Can Benefit:  This could be a great opportunity to build on existing relationships with workforce offices or begin establishing working relationships now.


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May 4-6, 2015: NAWDP 2015 Annual Conference

NAWDP 2015 Annual Conference

May 4-6, 2015  Las Vegas, Nevada

Over 900 workforce professionals from across the nation are expected including: One-Stop Center/AJC Staff, Job Developers, Re-Entry Specialist, Youth Build Grantees, Community College Representatives, Job Corps Professionals, Senior Community and Employment Service Providers, Business and Employer Representatives, WIB Executive Directors, Career and Guidance Counselors, Juvenile Justice Specialists, Educators and Trainers.

Click here to learn more about this event.

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5 Things a not-so-Newbie Learned


Photo credit: My Dad

…from Higher’s Intro to WIOA Webinar

Newbies like Sarah from yesterday’s post aren’t the only ones who can learn something new. Experienced employment professionals should, too.

Here are 5 things I learned from NAWDP Executive Director Bridget Brown about what’s important for refugees in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).  Listen to the webinar recording and see what else you’ll learn.

1.  All workforce centers will now be called American Job Centers (AJCs).  That will help refugees know where to go for assistance if the outmigrate.  Makes it easier for us, too.

2.  Local Workforce Investment Boards (WIB) are powerful.  Local WIBs control contracts for AJC services.  Many of their meetings are open to the public.  Having contacts and context for how this works in your community is really important.

3.  Interim performance measures are designed to encourage centers to serve the hardest-to-serve.  Our clients are often included in that category.  Final performance measures are still being drafted, reviewed and finalized.

4.  75% of youth funding must be dedicated to out of school youth up to 24 years old.  This likely means more resources focused on work readiness and skill training.  Great for our clients who qualify!

5.  “Sequencing of services” has been eliminated.  Clients can access the service they need without first accepting those they don’t. Here’s a true story(mine) to illustrate why this will really benefit our clients and us.

My client Adell was offered a promotion from his employer if he obtained his commercial drivers license.  He was eligible for free short term CDL training through the local AJC.  First, he had to attend orientation, put his profile into a database, attend two intake meetings with an AJC case worker and attend a workshop.  He needed my help to navigate the system, so I did all of that, too.  Four months later, his work schedule changed before he could start the training and he couldn’t attend anyway.  (Adell is now a long haul truck driver with a CDL and his own truck.  This experience was frustrating for him, me and the AJC staff.  We all really wanted it  to work.  I’m determined to help make things easier for all of us with WIOA!)

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