We are right in the middle of the second annual National Apprenticeship Week—November 14 to 20.
The history of apprenticeships is interesting. The idea goes back to early times in Egypt and Babylon.When the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi required artisans to teach their craft to the next generation, the most basic form of apprenticeship was started. By the 13th century, a similar practice emerged in Europe. Master craftsmen would take on apprentices and work with them for a period of about seven years to teach them the trade.1
As humankind evolved and the industrial revolution reached its peak during the first half of the 19th century, the demand for skilled craftsmen increased. To ensure there were enough skilled workers, many countries started to move from local guilds and artisanship programs to national apprenticeship programs. The United States was no different. The U.S. Department of Labor established the Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training (BAT) in 1937 to ensure we have enough skilled and talented workers. The BAT is still the governing body over all accredited apprenticeship programs in the U.S.2
In the late 60s and early 70s, as more automation and computerization found its way into manufacturing, many thought highly skilled journeyman were unnecessary and believed on-the-job (OJT) training was enough. We shifted to training our employees to be very proficient in just one or two tasks, instead of making them experts in a field.
In today’s manufacturing world, we are experiencing a huge shortage of skilled workers who can repair PLCs, program robots, or operate complex machines like fife axis CNC machines. More and more companies are reverting back to apprenticeship programs and using them as a “feeder system” to create a skilled and knowledgeable workforce.
There are many reasons you should consider creating an apprenticeship program at your workplace. Apprenticeships programs:
In addition, apprenticeship programs can help you save money. Some apprentice programs have federal or state grants associated with them to support your efforts.3
Another way to find out more about apprenticeship programs is to contact your local technical college. Technical colleges are the “boots on the ground” for apprenticeship training. They provide classroom and hands-on training to ensure your program can offer all the needed tools and techniques. Technical colleges are also a great resource to use when looking into creating an apprenticeship program. They can connect you with other local employers that have the same or similar apprenticeship programs and help you figure out what is working and not working for them.
You could also consider a youth apprenticeship program. These are programs where high school students can work at your company and gain knowledge and credits toward an apprenticeship. You can find out more about youth apprenticeship programs by contacting your state’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development, your local school board, or a nearby high school.
Youth apprentice programs are a fantastic way to provide high school students with real-life work skills, as well as soft skills that are needed on the job, while the student is completing his high school education.
If you are serious about having a knowledgeable and skilled workforce at your organization that is able to deal with the ongoing challenges, changes, and growth in manufacturing, look into creating an apprenticeship program at your place of business.