With a history stretching back to Medieval Europe when craft guilds and town governments employed young people as inexpensive labor in exchange for food, lodging and training, apprenticeships may seem old-fashioned. But for many local companies, they are the future of workforce training.
“Apprenticeships are extremely important,” said Robin King, president and CEO at CareerSource Flagler/Volusia. “There is not an occupation you can think of that can’t benefit from apprenticeships.”
According to Apprentice Florida, a partnership between CareerSource Florida, the Florida Department of Education and the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, apprenticeships are “a proven solution for businesses to recruit, train and retain highly skilled workers” where job seekers earn money while working toward a career and avoiding student loan debt.
More than 150,000 businesses across the country have used apprenticeship programs, including more than 4,500 in Florida, according to Apprentice Florida. Between 2014 and 2018, the number of active apprentices in the Sunshine State nearly doubled from 7,395 to 12,207, with new programs added every year.
King said at CareerSource Flagler/Volusia, the team created its own internal apprenticeship program “so we could really learn all the nuances of the process in getting a program, including how to sponsor it and paperwork requirements.”
While many people think of apprenticeships as confined to certain trades such as plumbing or HVAC companies, King said apprenticeship programs exist in just about any occupation you can think of. And it’s not just for new workers.
“If a business has someone in the company they want to keep and upscale them, it isn’t always new employees that you bring for an apprenticeship,” she said.
As an example, King said Halifax Health recently registered an apprenticeship program to add several different occupations to their workforce.
“It can be adaptable; that is one of the reasons we really love these apprenticeships,” she said.
Building on a Legacy
Apprenticeships have been part of the fabric of Giles Electric since the company’s founding in 1970.
“We have participated in the Joint Apprenticeship Training program for our entire history,” said Brad Giles, president of the South Daytona company. “My father, Art Giles, went through the program and was an instructor, and my uncle, Holmes Davis, was the apprenticeship director for 20 years.”
Giles said the company currently has 30 apprentices, and the program is a foundation of its success.
“The apprenticeship is the pipeline for the majority of our talent,” he said. “Our program is a national program that uses the name Electrical Training Alliance. We have utilized apprenticeships as the way our industry trains our workers.”
The Electrical Training Alliance of Daytona is aligned with other Alliances across the state, Giles said. And because Giles Electric is a union contractor, the negotiated wages and benefits are also available to those in the program.
“Wages and benefits increase every year as the apprentices complete work and school hours,” he said. “The program takes approximately three-and-a-half years to complete, and there are minimal costs and no tuition costs for our program. It’s the best way to learn a trade while being paid a good wage with benefits.”
Apprenticeships and the Bottom Line
Programs are more than just simple on-the-job training. Under Apprentice Florida, where any company can get help starting an apprenticeship program, there are five key components that registered apprenticeships must contain, including business involvement, structured on-the-job training, technical instruction, wage increases for workers as they gain skills and knowledge and industry-recognized credentials when apprentices complete their programs.
Successful apprenticeship programs can reduce turnover rates, increase productivity, lower recruitment costs and increase safety in the workplace, according to Apprentice Florida. And they can have a direct impact on the bottom line, with an average return on investment of $1.50 for every dollar invested in an apprenticeship program, the organization said.
The programs also benefit workers, who earn an average starting wage of $15 per hour and can earn $300,000 more over the course of their careers, according to Apprentice Florida.
King said one of the key selling points of the apprenticeship programs for businesses is their flexibility.
“You can look at any company and create a program just for that company,” she said. “It can be smaller, more customized and meet the exact needs of the business.”
While there are requirements for on-the-job training as well as classroom instruction, King said businesses retain a lot of control over their programs.
“The thing that makes it such a viable option for businesses is they are the driver,” she said. “They are the ones that are going to the training.”