The Contractor’s Apprentice: Achieving Apprenticeship Program Success as a Company

Apprenticeships are hardly a new development in the trades industry, but their growing popularity could mean that they are the missing link between your company and a robust, developed workforce. The proof is in the statistics: apprenticeships work when it comes to effectively growing your workforce. The US Department of Labor states that the retention rate of apprentices hovers around 91 percent, meaning that many apprentices start their program with the intention of remaining with the company for the long term. While reduced hiring costs are great, increasing engagement is better. There are many ways for management to develop an apprenticeship program that works for your company, but here are four tried-and-true tips to creating a program that makes your apprentices stick around.

DO be prepared for young talent

According to the DOL webpage, apprentices must be at least 16 years of age before beginning an apprenticeship. That age minimum increases to 18 when hazardous conditions are introduced (ex: operating heavy equipment, working with high voltage materials, etc.), so understand that this newer, fresher population in the workforce are going to have different needs than your Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers. Generation Z is going to take the workforce by storm over the next few years so familiarize yourself with their unique characteristics and skills.

One of the biggest benefits of hiring from the growing pool of Gen Z applicants is that they are able to process large quantities of information in a relatively quick time frame, making them the Cadillacs of new employees. Don’t be afraid to teach complex concepts and skills early on and build on those concepts. They will eat it up.

DO revamp your recruiting efforts

Do your applicants know that, according to the DOL, trades industry employees who complete apprenticeships make, on average $300,000 more throughout their careers than those who have not? Many potential applicants overlook apprenticeships for more advanced positions thinking they will make more but forget about long-term potential that includes higher salary and faster career advancement. Communicate the possibility of career paths in your job description in order to entice your applicants.

Trades industry employees aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty, so go out into the field and look for applicants where they’re likely to come out of the woodwork. Make an appearance at local high schools for their career fairs or see if you can send a representative to speak at an industrial technology class. Technical and community colleges are also great places to look. Bonus points if you list your opening on their job boards.

DON’T limit learning

One of the best aspects of apprenticeships is that they allow workers to earn a living and learn a trade at the same time. This also means that you’ll need to approach your learning management strategy differently from traditional employees. Your apprentices are also going to have new perspectives on learning and will pursue different opportunities than the older members of the team. They are more likely to ask for a diversified set of learning experiences, so be prepared to give them.

Classroom learning and online modules are only a small part of training. Because apprenticeships are, at their core, applied learning experiences, it’s crucial to the success of your program for the company to give the apprentice opportunities to show what they know in real-life situations. Give them room to learn and take the time to find the ways they excel and develop the areas that aren’t quite shaping up yet.

DON’T forget compliance

In order to draw more applicants, you have the opportunity to register your apprenticeship with the Department of Labor’s Office of Apprenticeship. To candidates, this means that your company is committed to promoting safety and welfare of its employees. This also means that your apprentices finish the program with a nationally recognized certificate of completion, which can make them more marketable to employers in the future.

It should go without saying that , but record everything throughout the hiring process, track their learning progress and performance. This should be done anyway to make life easier for managers when deciding to make a full-time offer but will keep your company from facing problems in an audit. Compliance is key to a happy, healthy workforce and apprentices who want to stick around.

The BirdDogHR talent management system can help you manage your apprentices’ entire program from hire to their transition to full-time employee. Contact us today for more information or to schedule a demo.