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:
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
- 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.
- 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 careeronestop.org. 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.
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org to share your insights on this career path strategy.