General Description of Apprenticeship Programs

Trades Apprenticeships: General Description

Adapted from the CA Department of Apprenticeship Standards

Apprenticeship is a system of learning while earning, and “learning by doing.” It combines training on the job with related and supplemental instruction at school. Today, it is utilized chiefly in the skilled crafts. Each program operates under apprenticeship training standards agreed to by labor and/or management in accordance with State and Federal laws, under which a person works with a skilled worker and gains on the job skills and “know-how” and in turn becomes an important part of the occupation and industry. In those crafts in which management and labor organizations exist, each selects an equal number of members to serve on the joint apprenticeship committee. The joint apprenticeship committee determines the standards for training of its occupation and supervises the training of apprentices. In many cases the local apprenticeship committees have guidelines in the form of national and/or statewide standards recommended by the advisory organizations. However these are minimums and the local groups usually have complete autonomy in developing and administering their own programs.

Qualifications for apprenticeship

To be successful, the individual must have perseverance, ambition, and initiative. Like a college education, the successful completion of an apprenticeship term does not come easily, but is the result of hard work on the part of the apprentice.
In practically every skilled occupation, more than fundamental knowledge of arithmetic is essential. The ability to read, write and speak well is beneficial in any walk of life, but in some apprenticeship occupations it is more important than in others. In some occupations, individuals seeking an apprenticeship will be at a decided advantage if they have taken shop courses, have some knowledge of mechanical drawing, physics, blueprint reading, drafting, higher mathematics, chemistry, electricity, welding or the like. Physical fitness, a good sense of balance, eye-hand coordination, color sense, agility, strength, ability to work at heights and mechanical aptitude are desirable qualifications in many skilled occupations and one or more of these are essential in others. Ability to work with others, good personality, and neat appearance are necessary in most trades, particularly where contact with the public is involved.
In many skilled occupations, persons with a high school diploma or its equivalent are preferred. Prospective skilled workers usually like to work with their hands and to use various tools to build and repair things. They like to finish things once they have started and don’t care how dirty or greasy the job, so long as they get it done. They enjoy visits to shops and factories and like to talk to mechanics about the jobs they do and the problems they meet in their work. In school, they get along well in shop, science, mathematics and mechanical drawing classes, and enjoy working on practical problems in the classroom and at home.

How apprenticeship programs operate

The training is supervised by Joint Apprenticeship Committee (JAC) – sometimes called Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (JATC), or a Unilateral Apprenticeship Committee (UAC). Training is “spelled out” in apprenticeship standards developed by the local apprenticeship committees, with the assistance of consultants of the Division of Apprenticeship Standards, and registered with the State. The processes of the trade and the number of hours to be spent learning each process are defined.
The period of training is from 1 to 6 years, depending upon the trade. Most programs are for 4 years. Apprentices start at a percentage of the skilled worker’s wage and receive increases at regular intervals. Starting rates are usually 35% to 50%, and increases are given every six months in most trades.

Apprentices attend classes of related technical instruction. This instruction, supplementing the training on the job, gives apprentices a comprehensive understanding of the theoretical aspects of their work. Related instruction is one of the fundamental features of apprenticeship and has been developed and accepted as standard practice in every trade. In most cases this means attending classes at night 4 hours each week, for at least 108 hours a year. The instruction includes such subjects as safety laws and regulations, mathematics, drafting, blueprint reading and other sciences connected with the trade. In class apprentices learn the theories of their trade; each day on the job they learn its practice, under the supervision of skilled workers, instruction in the use of the tools of the trade is also given apprentices early in their training; in most trades they are not allowed to use any power-driven machinery until well advanced in their training. Apprentices are usually required to furnish their own hand tools.
Each apprentice signs an apprentice agreement either with a JAC, UAC or an individual employer. This agreement is filed with the Division of Apprenticeship Standards. Upon successful completion of training, they are issued a “Certificate of Completion” by the State of California.

In a number of occupations and industries apprentices receive, in addition to their regular wages, fringe benefits covering vacation pay, health and welfare, pensions, etc. Through collective bargaining in a number of instances, employers also pay certain regular amounts into apprenticeship funds, which are administered by boards of trustees. Coordinators of apprenticeship and field representatives are employed by these boards to supervise the training of apprentices in a given trade or area, process apprentice applications, keep records of progress, and the like. Where fund offices and staffs have been established, they have been of great value to the JACs, apprentices and the industry.

Industry coordinators and apprenticeship consultants of the Division of Apprenticeship Standards visit establishments to determine on-the-job progress of apprentices, seek new apprenticeship openings, and discuss problems with apprentices, supervisors and employers. The role of the state, through the Division of Apprenticeship Standards, is consultative and developmental. Apprenticeship programs must comply with the State of California Plan for Equal Opportunity in Apprenticeship Adopted and amended by the California Apprenticeship Council on November 28, 1983. The Division’s State Plan developed to meet the requirements of revised 29 CFR 30 is spelled out in the booklet, “State of California Plan for Equal Opportunity in Apprenticeship,” which also contains administrative guidelines for implementing the Plan.

Adapted from

CA Department of Apprenticeship Standards

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