FAQs For Apprentices

Apprenticeship 101 – What is an Apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is an employer-driven model and a form of experiential learning that combines on-the-job learning as a paid employee with related classroom instruction, to increase an apprentice’s skill level and wages.

An apprenticeship is a proven approach for preparing workers for jobs while meeting the needs of businesses for a highly skilled workforce. It’s an employer-driven, “learn-while-you-earn” model that combines on-the-job training provided by the employer that hires the apprentice with job-related instruction in curricula tied to the attainment of national skills standards. The model also involves progressive increases in an apprentice’s skills and wages.

An apprenticeship is a flexible training strategy that can be customized to meet the needs of any business. 

An apprentice is a qualified person of legal working age who has entered into a written agreement with an employer under which the employer is to provide an opportunity for the apprentice to learn an apprenticeable occupation.

The U.S. Department of Labor does not have an official definition of internship or externship. However, general differences between internships and apprenticeships include:

  • Length of Time: Internships are usually short term (one to three months) and apprenticeships are longer term (one to three years).
  • Structure: Apprenticeships include a structured training plan, with a focus on mastering the specific skills an employer needs to fill an occupation within their organization. Internships are not structured and often focus on entry-level general work experience.
  • Mentorship: Apprentices receive individualized training with an experienced mentor who walks them through their entire process. Internships do not always include mentors.
  • Pay: Apprenticeships are paid experiences that often lead to full-time employment. Internships can be unpaid and may not lead to a full-time job.
  • Credential: Apprenticeships lead to an industry-recognized credential. Internships typically do not lead to a credential.
  • College Credit: Internship and apprenticeship experiences may both lead to college credit, although some apprenticeship programs will lead to a debt-free college degree.

Financial Cost

As an apprentice, you will be paid for the on-the-job training portion of the apprenticeship. Some individuals find this beneficial even if they are not receiving pay for the instruction portion of the apprenticeship.

From their first day of work, apprentices receive a paycheck that is guaranteed to increase as their training progresses. Apprentices also complete a combination of job-related instruction and hands-on training at the job site, leading to a nationally recognized, portable credential. Other specific benefits include:

  • Paid Job: Earn as you learn with a guaranteed wage increase as you develop new skills.
  • Credentials: Receive an industry-recognized and a nationally portable credential.
  • Jump-Start Your Career: Ease the transition from school to career by learning and working at the same time for a potential future employer.
  • Education: Gain workplace-relevant skills in the field of your choice through on-the-job learning.
  • Degree Potential: Get academic credit toward a college degree for the skills you learn.
  • Mentorship: Connect with a mentor or mentors in your chosen industry who can help you advance your career.

Wages and Wage Progression

Apprentices start working when they enter an apprenticeship, with steady wage increases as they become more proficient. Wages vary depending on the specific occupation you are pursuing and your employer. The average starting wage for an apprentice is $15 per hour. You can view general wage information for different occupations on O*NET Online at: https://www.onetonline.org/

Each registered apprentice is guaranteed, at minimum, a one-wage progression during their apprenticeship. When you receive your increase and how much you receive will depend on your individual apprenticeship. When you begin your apprenticeship program, you will complete and sign an Apprenticeship Agreement that clearly states the terms of your apprenticeship so you understand your wages, when you will receive wage increases and how much they will be—as well as other important information that is specific to your apprenticeship program.

Employment / Apprenticeship Credentials

Once you finish your apprenticeship, you will have the opportunity to be employed full-time by your employer or medical provider. Employment is not guaranteed, but it is reassuring to know that one of the main reason’s employers participate in registered apprenticeship programs is to recruit and retain employees. According to the U.S. Department of the Labor, “91% of apprentices retain employment after the program ends.”

Prior Learning Assessment

Yes, an apprentice can potentially receive college credit for prior classes or “real-world” experience. This is called Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) Credit, and it is awarded through local colleges. Additionally, you can receive credit for prior experience that can reduce the length of your apprenticeship.

Credits will vary depending on your specific apprenticeship program. Some apprenticeship programs are non-credit; some may earn college credit, but not a degree or certificate; still other programs may earn credits and a certificate and/or an associate degree. Every registered apprenticeship, no matter the related college credit, will end with a national credential from the U.S. Department of Labor.

On-The-Job Learning

There are three different types of apprenticeship: time based, competency based, and hybrid. The type of apprenticeship is determined by the U.S. Department of Labor based on occupation.

  • Time Based: This is the traditional apprenticeship model involving completion of at least 2,000 hours of on-the-job (OJL) experience. The U.S. Department of Labor sets the number of hours of OJL based on occupation.
  • Competency Based: This model allows the apprentice to move through the related technical instruction upon mastery, rather than being bound to the time frames of specific courses or semesters. The U.S. Department of Labor still expects the apprenticeship to last at least 2,000 hours so the student can fully practice and demonstrate competencies.
  • Hybrid: This model requires the apprentice to complete a specified minimum number of OJL hours and related instruction (RI) hours to demonstrate competency in the defined subject areas.

Apprenticeships can range from one-year in length to over six years, depending on the occupation.

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