Working Together: Modern solutions to strengthen Nevada’s workforce (Voices)

By | November 10, 2020

Amy Fleming
Courtesy photo

RENO, Nev. — While countries such as Canada, Britain and Germany have a long history of using apprenticeships to develop a skilled workforce, many in the U.S. think construction is the only industry leveraging this solution.

However, the use of apprenticeships is gaining momentum as employers are reaping the benefits of a more specialized staff, higher productivity and morale, and reduced risk. Moreover, companies that adopt an apprenticeship can see the benefit to their bottom line; research reveals a significant return on investment, according to a 2012 policy research assessment from Mathematica.

With rapid changes in the economy and marketplace, it can be increasingly challenging to find employees who arrive with the necessary skillset on day one, as suggested in 2019 white paper titled, “The Human Difference: Building Learning Culture and Workforce Agility.

A traditional education system can struggle to keep pace with the rapid evolution of technology; Registered Apprenticeship Programs (RAPs) provide a tested mechanism for employers to develop existing talent and attract new employees by harnessing talent potential and developing the skills to match their specific needs.

Registered Apprenticeships are flexible, low-risk, customizable and accessible to both large and small businesses. Today more than ever, companies need to think creatively, be highly adaptable and stay flexible — adopting a Registered Apprenticeship can provide Nevada businesses the tools to remain competitive.

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Finding licensed CNAs with experience in an acute care setting is a challenge for many health systems across the country. By adopting a CNA Registered Apprenticeship, Renown Health has created a pathway for licensed applicants to develop the relevant on-the-job experience and acquire the exact skills they need.

Like many first exposed to the concept, Hamilton Company was initially skeptical that a Registered Apprenticeship could be a solution for their hiring needs and only committed to piloting their own program after learning about how similar employers were finding success with the model. Hamilton selected the coursework for their apprentices without having to rely on traditional academic pathways.

They quickly benefited from a significantly expanded candidate pool that enabled them to search for potential in lieu of skills. Most importantly, the program proved no riskier than traditional hiring and they saw the quality of their broader candidate pool improve because candidates seek out companies that invest in training.

Information Technology is another important industry expanding utilization of Registered Apprenticeships. Amazon, IBM and Google are hiring apprentices in Software Development, Cyber Security, and Network Administration, according to a January article in the Wall Street Journal.

But technology apprenticeships aren’t limited to the big players as smaller companies and startups are turning to apprenticeships to increase diversity and broaden the pool of potential candidates.

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Registered Apprenticeship Programs are completely customizable to meet the needs of the employer but must include these components:

1. Business Involvement: The process begins when an employer expresses a need for a stronger workforce — i.e. more closely aligned skills, increased diversity, etc.

2. On-the-Job Training (OJT): This mentorship may look very similar to what employers already does to onboard a new employee.

3. Related Instruction: Education can be required before the start of the OJT, intermittently, or concurrently. The educator may be a local institution, online, or the employer itself.

4. Wages Increase with Skills: Clearly outline raises are applied as the apprentice reaches employer-set benchmarks and successfully demonstrates competency with the new skills.

5. Nationally Recognized Credential: In addition to certifying that an employee meets the qualifications for the job, a credential validates the experience for the employee and can often be stacked with additional education to lead to more broadly recognized degrees.

Employers can engage “apprentices” without engaging in a formal Registered Apprenticeship Program but there are benefits to pursuing the registered model:

1. Broad Value: all the items above are required, articulating standards and increased value to the experience.

2. Apprenticeship Intermediary: provides support to the employer and the apprentice and keeps the education and experience on track for completion.

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3. Increased Funding: More State and Federal funding is often available to cover the education, equipment, wages, and employer time.

Now is the time to incorporate apprenticeships into your business to build a stronger workforce and support future growth.

Here are a few resources to get you started:

“Working Together” is a recurring Voices column in the NNBW authored by the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada, where Amy Fleming is director of workforce development. Reach her for comment at [email protected]. This month’s column was co-written by Cheryl Olson, Apprenticeship Navigator at the Nevada System of Higher Education.

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