More Apprenticeship Resources (adult, youth and pre-)

Last week, I was in Hershey, Pennsylvania sharing information on apprenticeship at the statewide Pathways to Career Readiness Symposium.  There are many career technology centers (CTCs) in Pennsylvania that have well developed CTE programs built on clearly articulated industry standards.  These regional CTCs are a natural fit to work with business and industry developing pre-apprenticeships, youth apprenticeships, and in certain cases, adult apprenticeships.

Working under contract with Pennsylvania Department of Education, my firm — NC3T — is forming a user-group of Pennsylvania CTC leaders that are learning about and establishing various forms of apprenticeship.

In this post, I just want to share some of the really important resources we’ve uncovered that could be helpful to you:

Quick-Start Toolkit:  The U.S. Department of Labor offers this quick-start toolkit.   It’s a pretty basic overview and great as a first read for understanding the essential terminology, criteria, and action steps for developing an apprenticeship.

Opportunities for Aligning CTE and Apprenticeship:  This guide was produced for the U.S. Department of Education by the national association for CTE leadership, Advance CTE.  This report gives excellent guidance for thinking about the different types of apprenticeship designs, and also includes eight case studies that exemplify the types of program designs.

One of the most helpful ideas in this report is the simple delineation of program definitions.

  • Apprenticeship is the “formal, on-the-job training program that typically has five components: 1) employer involvement; 2) on-the-job training; 3) related technical instruction; 4) paid work experience; and 5) award of a portable, nationally recognized industry credential.”
  • Youth Apprenticeship is a “program that is designed specifically for individuals aged 16-18, and is connected to an adult apprenticeship.”
  • Pre-Apprenticeship is a “program or set of strategies designed to prepare individuals for entry into an apprenticeship program.”

I suggest that you use these definitions pretty carefully in your parlance about work-based learning.  There’s a real temptation right now to throw around the term “youth-apprenticeship” or “pre-apprenticeship” for any well designed and well-run work-based learning program involving youth.

Using the term too loosely cheapens it and negatively reflect on programs that truly embody apprenticeship features.  So, I suggest that you reserve the term “youth apprenticeship” only for a program that actually embodies the five components of apprenticeship and is designed for teens age 16-18. Remember, deep employer involvement is a key differentiator for true apprenticeship; in an apprenticeship, the employer makes a hire, provides significant on-site training, and assures wage increases as the apprentice’s skills increases.

In talking about youth employment and work-based programs, I would avoid using the term “Pre-Apprenticeship” unless you’re talking about a work-based learning program that was specifically designed with an actual adult apprenticeship program in mind and at the table.  Someone from the actual apprenticeship program should be involved and help to inform the design and structure of the pre-apprenticeship program; ideally, some of the learning in the pre-apprenticeship program should count toward reduced work hour requirements when the youth enters the apprenticeship, similar to how dual enrollment courses count for both high school and college credits.

U.S. DOL Framework on Apprenticeship for High School Students:  This Training and Employment Notice from U.S. Department of Labor was issued in the waning days of the Obama Administration, but it is still in force and provides guidance and clarity about how teenagers, ages 16-18, can be involved in registered apprenticeships.  Mostly, it serves to officially notify educators and program administrators that apprenticeships for teens aged 16-18 can be legally approved.

Available Occupations:  This list of hundreds of occupations indicates those for which apprenticeship is possible including the number of work hours that have been identified for each apprenticeship.  You’ll see that a few occupations don’t require any job hours, some are set at 2,000 hours (essentially one year of work), and many are in the 3,000 – 4,000 hour range.  But a few are actually several years long, with as many as 10-12,000 hours (engraver, bookbinder, artificial eye maker!).  DOL claims there are apprenticeship programs in over 1,000 occupations, but as far as I know, there is not a publicly available master list of U.S. apprenticeship programs.  But, in concept, all of these occupations have been identified for potential approval.

Each occupation also indicates the O-Net Code (such as 43-3031.00 for Accounting Technician.). The O-Net Job Classification system has a very thorough list of skills and knowledge for each occupation, and this can be the basis for creating the training guide for the apprenticeship.  You can go to O-Net (, type in the O-Net Code into the search bar, and see all the knowledge and skills associated with that occupation.

I hope this information helps in your further exploration of the apprenticeship world!

Hans Meeder is President of NC3T, the National Center for College and Career Transitions (  NC3T provides planning, coaching, technical assistance and tools to help community-based leadership teams plan and implement their college-career pathway systems and strengthen employer connections with education.

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