Registered Apprenticeships:

Labor Could Do More to Expand to Other Occupations

GAO-01-940: Published: Sep 7, 2001. Publicly Released: Sep 7, 2001.

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Apprenticeship, which combines supervised on-the-job training with formal instruction, benefits both employers and employees by providing the skills and knowledge necessary for a specific job and a credential recognized throughout an industry. The use of apprenticeship is standard practice in some industries, but expansion beyond traditional occupations has been limited. The Department of Labor has not systematically identified new occupations suitable for apprenticeship programs, nor has it successfully alleviated the concerns of some employers about apprenticeship requirements, which has slowed the expansion of apprenticeship to new occupations. Labor has approved 19 new occupations for apprenticeships in the last five years, and many of these have been in less traditional occupations, such as internetworking technicians. Employers are often wary of apprenticeship programs. For example, some employers are reluctant to commit to incremental increases in wages as required by apprenticeship regulations. GAO identified several apprenticeship programs in which apprenticeship training helped to develop workers with sought-after skills. The key to the establishment of the several programs GAO reviewed was the close interaction between employers and federal or state apprenticeship officials to ensure that employers understood the value of apprenticeships.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Labor has taken proactive steps to lead in coordinating and promoting the development of apprenticeship opportunities in occupations with shortages in skilled labor as well as in new and emerging industries. For example, Labor conducted national forums with existing stakeholders and employers in new and emerging occupations to gain feedback on ways to expand apprenticeship, enhance the quality of programs, increase diversity and develop stronger linkages. In July 2002, Labor held a conference to publicly discuss the survey results from these forums and obtain feedback from participants. During 2003, Labor has been implementing a plan to inform potential apprentices about the benefits of apprenticeship as a training strategy, increase the number of new apprenticeship sponsors, and expand the number of new apprenticeship programs, including those in new and emerging industries. For example, new apprenticeship programs for E-Commerce Specialist and IT Project Manager were approved in 2003. In addition, many of the apprenticeship representatives have been trained in selling apprenticeship to employers for occupations not traditionally apprenticed. So far, all the federal field representatives have been trained and training sessions for additional state representatives are scheduled.

    Recommendation: To expand apprenticeship, particularly into occupations not traditionally apprenticed, Labor must take the lead in coordinating and promoting the development of programs. As part of this effort, the Secretary of Labor should ensure that the Office of Apprenticeship Training, Employer, and Labor Services (ATELS) lead a systematic effort to work with state apprenticeship councils and others interested to identify apprenticeable occupations that have shortages of skilled labor and establish plans for promoting apprenticeship in these occupations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Labor has taken steps to provide leadership in coordinating and promoting the development of programs. For example, Labor has leveraged about $18.5 million from various sources to advance the apprenticeship system. Resources have funded apprenticeship initiatives and pilot projects to design and implement marketing approaches to advance apprenticeship in growth industries. Labor funded a consortia of state apprenticeship officials to discuss ways to better exchange information both within apprenticeship and between the apprenticeship and participants in the workforce investment system. In addition, about $5.5 million in private funding has been leveraged to date to develop collaborative projects intended to stimulate apprenticeship development through work with ETA's new Business Relations Group. Labor officials recognize that identifying additional resources is an action that must be ongoing, but said that doing so is now a part of their culture.

    Recommendation: To expand apprenticeship, particularly into occupations not traditionally apprenticed, Labor must take the lead in coordinating and promoting the development of programs. As part of this effort, the Secretary of Labor should ensure that ATELS work with other federal workforce development programs to identify funding for developing apprenticeships when additional support is needed.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The concept of spreading the word about new programs and, more generally, the usefulness of apprenticeship for new and emerging occupations is being applied throughout Labor's apprenticeship program. The recent effort to train federal and state apprenticeship representatives is intended to enable them to inform employers about how apprenticeship can be helpful to them, even in occupations not traditionally apprenticed. In addition, the directors of state apprenticeship programs now have access to the federal apprenticeship office's collaborative workspace, where current national apprenticeship activities are provided. Furthermore, the federal Advisory Committee on Apprenticeship, which includes representation from employers and state apprenticeship councils, has been reconfigured and has established committees that have made recommendations, including updating the entire apprenticeship regulations to remove some barriers to the use of current training practices such as long-distance training and competency-based training.

    Recommendation: To expand apprenticeship, particularly into occupations not traditionally apprenticed, Labor must take the lead in coordinating and promoting the development of programs. As part of this effort, the Secretary of Labor should ensure that ATELS establish a mechanism for sharing among Labor representatives and employers information on apprenticeship programs, particularly those in occupations not traditionally apprenticed.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Labor has fully implemented the new Registered Apprenticeship Information System (RAIS), and data is now on the system, although not all states are using it yet. Reports from the new system include the number of active apprentices and programs, the number of new apprentices and programs, as well as information concerning the number of apprentices and programs in emerging industries. The system has enabled Labor to assess progress on goals that they previously could not measure accurately, such as the percent of completers and the wage increases for apprentices. Data from the information system on available programs and types of apprenticeships are also now available to the public through the one-stop career centers. Labor is also adding some improvements to the system; it is enabling employers to register apprentices on line for approval by Labor representatives.

    Recommendation: To expand apprenticeship, particularly into occupations not traditionally apprenticed, Labor must take the lead in coordinating and promoting the development of programs. As part of this effort, the Secretary of Labor should ensure that ATELS ensure that the apprenticeship database contains detailed information on current programs so that accurate and complete information is shared and progress in meeting labor market needs can be evaluated.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

 

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