By: Sacha Kiesman
Apprenticeship programs are an effective way to ensure that the next generation of workers in your field will be qualified and ready to work. Apprenticeships are all about learning by doing. They place apprentices directly in the environment of their profession with experts that have knowledge to impart. A well-crafted apprenticeship program will prepare apprentices for the rest of their career and might even provide you with qualified candidates for positions at your organization. Here are three qualities that every strong apprenticeship program should have:
1. Exposure to multiple contexts and environments of practice
Give apprentices opportunities to gain exposure to multiple environments within their profession and ways to experience their profession. Anything that allows an apprentice to experience their practice in various contexts is valuable to a strong apprenticeship program. This could mean sending apprentices to work in an assortment of departments or having them spend time in a classroom doing book learning. Consider sending apprentices to high schools to speak about their work or trade shows to represent the organization. Working in the office, on the floor, or in the field should be the bulk of the apprenticeship but working exclusively in the traditional context narrows an apprentice’s experience.
2. Exposure to various career trajectories
Prompt apprentices to think about their career path and expose them to various possibilities of what that path could look like. Witnessing various career trajectories gives apprentices motivation. They’ll be able to see the returns that their investment will reap. It’s important to give apprentices opportunities to envision their future career and expose them to role models that can act as “proof of concept.” Exposing apprentices to various career trajectories will also show them that multiple avenues of advancement exist in every field. There isn’t one way to have a career. Exposing apprentices to various environments of practice will ensure they meet a range of people in their profession or trade, all on unique career paths. When apprentices can visualize where their work can take them, they gain identity as workers.
3. Availability of goals and objectives
Put together a program or curriculum to guide the apprenticeships. Citing specific skills and activities that need to be acquired during the apprenticeship will keep the apprentices, those mentoring them, and the program in general, on track. The completion of professional certifications or courses can be used as objectives as well. Mapping the gaining of skills, knowledge of how to complete activities, and completion of certifications or courses will naturally build a portfolio for apprentices that can be built on and used in the future. A program or curriculum isn’t just helpful for the apprentices. Committing an apprenticeship program to writing will legitimize the program and institutionalize it within the organization.