How to Start an Apprenticeship: A Brief Guide

Learn how to start an apprenticeship in plain-English.

February 11, 2024

I know first-hand how daunting it can be to start an apprenticeship program. After spending months building and fine-tuning custom apprenticeships for myself and others, I recognized that there had to be a better way. 

Apprentix is a streamlined process that takes the headache out of creating high-value programs for your business and your new hires. Read on to learn how our software does the busy work for you – so you can focus on your people.

1. Identify the positions in your company that you want to turn into apprenticeships. 

Look for the positions in your company that are in high demand - whether you need to fill them immediately or in the near future. Those are the positions that you'd want to consider turning into apprenticeships first.

This will help you get the most bang out of your buck upfront. Instead of hiring FOR these positions, build them instead. Sure, you're paying some training and educating costs upfront, but it's much more cost-effective than hiring the "perfect fit."

Define the terms.

How long do you want the apprenticeship to last? Do you want the program to be competency-based or time-based? Competency-based apprenticeships work like this: once employees show they're proficient in a skill, they can move on to the next step toward completion. Time-based apprenticeships are self-explanatory, and hybrid apprenticeships combine the two. You can create any of those three programs right in Apprentix. 

You can also define what type of certificate you want to provide at the end of training. It could come from a formal institution (e.g., the American Marketing Association), or if your apprenticeship is federally registered, the US Department of Labor also issues certificates. At the end of the day, certificates only matter if they're necessary for your industry. It's up to you to decide if you want to incorporate them into your apprenticeship. 

By the way…

As a bonus, Apprentix issues apprentices an NFT Certificate on the Ethereum blockchain. We're giving your apprentices a valuable asset they can use that is free to them and you. It's our little token of appreciation for completing an apprenticeship through Apprentix. 

2. Select the program sponsor.

Determine who is the program sponsor. A program sponsor is the person accountable for overseeing and tracking your apprentice’s progress. You likely already have someone in charge of training, so this isn’t much different. This person will essentially take ownership of running Apprentix and ensure everything flows smoothly. 

3. Input employer info.

You’ll also select the employer within Apprentix - which is probably you, the one reading this right now. If you have multiple employers within the app, you can duplicate one apprenticeship and stamp it out for each company. Simple!

4. Create a skills-based job description.

If a skills-based job description sounds oversimplified…well, it is. It’s basically a non-shitty job description if I’m being blunt. A skills-based job description means that the job is not arbitrarily based on a college degree that isn’t necessary for the position.

Don’t get me wrong, if your industry has a minimum education requirement like a high school diploma, GED, or a particular degree related to the field - that’s valid. But I challenge you to think about if your entry-level position really requires a four-year degree.

Wondering how to create a skills-based job post? Here’s the beauty of Apprentix: we do it for you. You pop in the job title, and a complete description of every skill that job may require spits back out. 

And that’s not all. Inside the recruiting sources section, you’ll find a massive database of more than 150 places you can find untapped labor. These are not your LinkedIn and Indeeds of the world – these are specialized group sites –ones you’ve probably never heard of. 

Let’s say you want to open your job up to veterans – but the specific skillset they learned in the military is hard to translate into the requirements of the corporate world. Apprentix helps close that gap – thus opening up your candidate pool and resulting in way more qualified candidates than you could ever imagine.

5. Create a classroom plan.

This is another excellent customizable feature of Apprentix. You get to decide when apprentices will take classes -- either before, after, or during their shift. You also get to determine what costs you’d pick up versus the apprentices, if/how much they’ll be paid while they’re in class, and what the classes will actually be.

Apprentix works with any and every learning management system including online learning platforms like Coursera, LinkedIn Learning, and even plain ol’ YouTube. When you’ve determined what classes you want for the apprenticeship, you simply copy and paste the link into Apprentix. Our software acts as a hub where employees can view their entire course schedule, comprehension checkpoints, and more.

Quick caveat…

We do not build learning management systems (LMS). There are thousands of learning managers all over the place, and we’re not trying to replicate something that already exists. 

6. Create an on-the-job plan.

If we didn't make creating apprenticeships easy already… here's yet another gift to you: built-in job plans. All you have to do is pop in the job title, and Apprentix will spit out an entire on-the-job learning program for you.

We currently have 54,000 jobs loaded in the system, ready to go. And guess what? You can customize each program if you don't like what's templated for you. You can either start from scratch or edit what I made to better suit your needs. 

I'm not exaggerating when I say I want to make this as easy as possible.

7. Build a wage schedule.

What’s a wage schedule, you ask? Whether it’s an annual salary or hourly wage, a wage schedule shows apprentices what they’ll be bumped up to once they complete specific competencies or full courses.

Seeing a wage schedule upfront helps motivate apprentices, and it shows that you’re being transparent. One they make you more money, they get paid more, it’s very simple. 

If you want to add more wage bumps (and I encourage you to do so), you can throw in as many as you’d like right into Apprentix. And what’s great about it is that once the apprentice completes what’s needed to be done to reach the next level, Apprentix will automatically notify the program sponsor – who then, in turn, can give payroll a heads up. 

8. Choose what supportive services you want.

Your apprentices are likely going to need someone to talk to who is not their boss – someone who they can communicate their challenges without feeling like a burden or without fear of losing their job. That’s why we added a supportive services option to our software.

Mentorship is near and dear to my heart. I’ve been privileged to build up a massive mentoring organization that’s helped thousands of low-income youth go to college on scholarships over the past 15 years. I know what it takes to run a high-quality mentorship program, and I’ve taken those principles and put them inside Apprentix so you can benefit from them too. 

In addition to mentoring, Apprentix provides optional support services – things commonly needed for apprentices not to have life get in the way of their success. We also have free resources for you to use as well. Again, these are optional – but they’re great assurances for higher graduation rates for your apprentices. 

9. Define your recruiting process.

In some cases, potential employees may have previous experience (from either a classroom or job) that is required for your open position. As an employer, you have the choice whether to allow them to apply that experience as a credit to your apprenticeship program or not. (We have a tool that enables the employee to upload evidence of their competencies/certificates).

In the recruiting process, you can advertise whether you’ll accept previous experience and if it will apply to your program, which can help you get even better candidates. And remember, we have a database of more than 150 sites where you can post your job and source new talent pools.

10. Add your employees.

If you run a small business, you may be the program sponsor, mentor, trainer – all of the above. But you also might be too busy for that, which is why we have fields that allow you to input as many team members as you need. And by the way – none of this starts the billing process until you hire your first apprentice and input them into the system. 

11. Federally register your apprenticeship program (or don’t). 

This part is so simple – it’s literally two questions. If you indicate you want your program federally registered, we will generate all of the paperwork for you (think Turbo Tax). You fill out the plain-English questions, and we input them into the complicated government form. Once the fields are complete, you send them to your state’s apprenticeship office. 

So how do you know if you should register your apprenticeship? We have some great articles on that, but here’s a quick summary: money. Dinero. Dough. Stacks. Whatever you want to call it. 

If you federally register your apprenticeship, you will qualify to receive grants based on the people you hire – and it’s not an insignificant amount. Depending on your industry and the position, you can receive anywhere from $5-15k per person to offset training costs.

So is there a catch? Of course there is. It’s the government.

The catch is that you have to do compliance reporting. Not to sound like a broken record, but…Apprentix will do all of that for you. Once again, you just pop in the data, and by the off chance you get audited, everything is stored neatly away, ready to go. 

There you have it – the first 11 steps to build your custom apprenticeship program. Start your first apprenticeship today.

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