Posted on 4/5/2017

Why Apprenticeship is a Smart Business Investment

Liz Rivard

It’s not a secret. The advanced manufacturing and IT sectors are facing complex workforce challenges like never before. And those challenges are magnified by the rise of Industry 4.0. Also known as the fourth industrial revolution, Industry 4.0 is challenging manufacturers to innovate and integrate new technologies on their factory floors. Adding to the workforce challenge is the looming retirement of about 22 percent of manufacturing employees expected over the next 10-15 years, according to JP Morgan Chase & Co. In the IT sector, Industry 4.0 presents an opportunity for companies to develop new technologies for the manufacturing industry. But how do companies find employees with the appropriate expertise? Finding the right talent, now, is critical for both industries. 

What is a Registered Apprentice? 

Registered Apprenticeship is a proven solution for recruiting, training, and retaining world-class talent, and has a 75-year history to back it up. Today, there are over 1,000 apprenticeship-friendly occupations recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor. Historically, apprenticeships were reserved for skilled trades and construction, but today, apprenticeships are available in health care, IT, advanced manufacturing, energy and transportation and logistics, among others. People seeking careers in these fields can now receive training through an apprenticeship program as opposed to a traditional 2-4-year college program.

By providing a combination of classroom and on the job training, Registered Apprenticeship programs allow the outgoing workforce to transfer knowledge to new employees as well as train on the most relevant and up-to date technologies and techniques. Additionally, Registered Apprenticeship programs impact company recruiting efforts by attracting more diverse talent pools and allow for up-skilling of the current workforce, which ultimately leads to higher employee retention rates. According to the Department of Labor, about 91 percent of apprentices that complete programs remain employed. Registered Apprenticeships offer a company reduced turnover rate, savings in recruitment costs, preservation of trade secrets and increased productivity.

Apprenticeships vs. Internships

Registered Apprenticeship is commonly mistaken for a traditional college internship. There are distinguishing factors between the two training models, but the most noticeable difference is that Registered Apprenticeships are a formal employment program that trains people for a specific job through a coordinated mix of on-the-job and classroom based training. Generally speaking, most people who apply for a spot in a Registered Apprenticeship program already know which career path they intend to follow, while internships make no promises of a job after completion of their internship or degree program. 

Time and money are also important factors when differentiating between Registered Apprenticeships and internships. Interns are only with a company for a semester or during the summer and are either paid or unpaid, while Registered Apprenticeships are long term commitments between a company and the apprentice. Apprenticeships can last anywhere from one to six years, depending on the occupation track and are always paid. Apprenticeships, often referred to as an “earn while you learn” program, generally start pay at 50 percent of what someone who has completed the apprenticeship makes. Throughout the apprenticeship, the pay is increased when the apprentice masters new skills. At the end of the apprenticeship program the apprentice receives a certificate of completion that is nationally recognized.

Help is Out There! 

Now comes the time when many company representatives say: “This sounds great, but who is going to pay for this?” Many employers balk at the idea of registering an apprenticeship program due to the associated costs. It is true. The company is expected to pay the wages of the apprentice and the on-the-job-training mentor, along with the classroom component. However, when a company implements a Registered Apprenticeship program, they gain access to services that can lessen the financial burden. 

Michigan Works!, veteran benefits, local educational institutions, and various community organizations have access to funding that can greatly reduce the training costs. In addition to this, Automation Alley is a partner on the statewide MAICA program under the federal ApprenticeshipUSA allocation. Companies interested hiring new apprentices into an existing Registered Apprenticeship program or starting a new program are eligible for a financial incentive per apprentice hired. 

With help, your company can receive assistance and get started with implementing this proven on-the-job training and retention model. It’s time to close the skills gap and transfer knowledge to the next generation of thinkers and makers. 

Get Started Today

Interested in how to start an apprenticeship program and register it? Contact me, Liz Rivard, Automation Alley’s program manager of Industry 4.0 Partnerships and Talent, at


About the Author

Liz Rivard | Automation Alley

Liz Rivard is Automation Alley’s program manager of Industry 4.0 Partnerships and Talent and is responsible for the implementation and management of the Michigan ApprenticeshipUSA Industry Cluster Approach (MAICA) and the Advance Michigan Robotics and Advanced Manufacturing Technology Education Collaborative (AM-RAMTEC) partnership initiatives. Additionally, she co-leads Automation Alley’s Education and Talent 4.0, Manufacturing, and Technology committees as well as the organization’s Industry 4.0 Advisory Councils.

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