What is an Apprenticeship Program?

​An apprenticeship is a work-based learning training model. For employers, apprenticeships are good for business - they help fill a skills gap or workforce need. For apprentices, they provide a pathway to a career.

Workers train on-the-job – earning wages and doing productive work – while also taking courses, learning in a classroom environment. The employers determine the apprentice’s work schedule. When someone completes an apprenticeship, they will have valuable work experience and a recognized industry credential(s) that allows them to continue in the field and advance their career over time.
​Apprenticeships generally last from one to four years, though some last up to six. Apprentices (who must be at least 16 years old, unless it is a youth apprenticeship) work full-time and must be paid at least minimum wage. As the apprentice advances through the program, their wages increase according to a predetermined schedule agreed to between the employer and the apprentice.

A program for youth (ages 16 to 24) currently enrolled in secondary education or pursuing a high school equivalency, including those with disabilities, that include, at minimum, the following:

1. 450 hours of paid on-the-job training under the supervision of a mentor;

2. At least 2 semesters of related instruction that ideally counts towards a high school and/or postsecondary credential, but minimally leading to an Industry Credential;

3. Ongoing and a final assessment measuring success in mastering skill standards;

4. Career exploration where participants learn about several positions within the employer and the field; and

5. Wraparound supports (e.g. case management and counseling) and holistic upskilling (e.g. technical skills and soft skills).

6. Upon successful completion of the program, participants are supported to apply for one or more of the following: entry-level employment, admission to a Registered Apprenticeship or Non-Registered Apprenticeship program, or admission to other articulated postsecondary education options (including 2- and 4-year programs).

Implementation Guidance:

  • Program sponsors may serve a subset of youth within the 16-24 age range instead of the full range.
  • Programs must include a documented partnership with an employer.

For any industry area where an Industry Credential does not yet exist, a group of employers that are representative of the industry (including small, medium, and large firms) in Illinois should determine the critical core competencies that participants should learn through the apprenticeship, and agree to a formal process for recognizing mastery of those competencies. (For more information, see the Illinois Career Pathways Dictionary)

DOL Guide for High School Registered Apprenticeship: TEN No. 31-16: Framework on Registered Apprenticeship for High School Students

​Apprenticeship programs vary in structure. The key to structuring an apprenticeship program is being in tune with company needs.

Apprenticeships have 5 components:
  1. Employer involvement,
  2. Structured on-the-job training with a mentor,
  3. Related training and instruction,
  4. Progressive wage increase as skills increase, and
  5. Nationally recognized credential(s).

There are three types of apprenticeship:

  • Time-based: the apprentice’s progress is measured by the number of hours spent on the job and in the classroom.
  • Competency-based: the apprentice’s progress is measured by his or her ability to demonstrate the application of relevant knowledge, skills and abilities.
  • Hybrid: the apprentice’s progress is measured through a combination of hours spent in the program and competencies demonstrated in the workplace.
​The Apprenticeship Illinois Framework addresses the fact that employers and participants have varying degrees of knowledge and comfort with the concept of apprenticeships. The goal is to provide a variety of options for participation.

In addition to the well-known options of Registered Apprenticeship, pre-apprenticeship, and youth apprenticeship, the Illinois Apprenticeship Plus system includes a fourth option: Non-Registered Apprenticeship – Industry Recognized Credential Programs. Similar to high-quality on-the-job training, this option requires that the five components listed above be present.
​The apprenticeship program can be hosted by an employer or a sponsoring organization, such as an industry association, a labor organization, a community college, a community based organization, a local workforce area, or an independent apprenticeship organization. Sponsors (a.k.a. Intermediaries) work with employers and apprentices. For registered apprenticeship, they work with the U.S. Department of Labor to develop and register their program. The sponsor may provide all elements of the program themselves (on-the-job training and related technical instruction), or they may partner with career schools, community colleges or other education providers to deliver a comprehensive, apprentice-focused experience.

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