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NCWE Board Member Blog - Beth Arman
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The Value-Add of Apprenticeship Programs

    Beth Arman
    Senior Dean, Career and Community Partnerships
    Diablo Valley College



In the last quarter of FY16, the U.S. Department of Labor reported slightly over 500,000 registered apprentices ( Many individuals enter apprenticeship with some college coursework already, although not necessarily a degree. Some want to pursue a degree, concurrent to or after finishing their apprenticeship program.

An associate degree – or higher – can be particularly helpful for becoming a manager or business owner. For example, in construction, although trades positions do not require a degree, construction management positions increasingly do. Burning Glass Technologies, a labor market analytics company and NCWE platinum sponsor, found that only 12% of current first-line supervisors of construction trades workers have a Bachelor’s degree, but 33% of recent postings for this job classification require one. Construction supervisors are “typically promoted from line construction and production roles. However, few of these skilled trade workers…hold bachelor’s degrees” (Burning Glass, 2014, pp. 7-11).

Community and technical colleges can help solve the credentials gap, through a combination of prior learning assessment and adult-friendly course offerings. A 2010 study by the Council on Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) found that students who received Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) credit were 2.5 times more likely to graduate than students who did not receive PLA credit. Researchers such as George Kuh, Robin Spaid, and Evan Duff have found that working adults learn best in programs that tie classroom learning to the outside world, and provide learning communities where students feel supported by faculty and one another.

Examples of college apprenticeship programs include:
  • William Rainey Harper College, IL: Business Insurance, CNC Precision Machinist, Industrial Maintenance Mechanist, and Supply Chain
  • South Seattle College, WA: Boiler Makers, Cement Masons and Plasterers, Construction Linemen, Electricians, Iron Workers, Meat Cutters, Masonry Trades, Sprinkler Fitters, and Finishing Trades
  • Houston Community College, TX: Plumbers, Masonry, Ironworkers, Asbestos Workers, Painters, Glaziers, Pipefitters, Sheet Metal
  • Spokane Community College, WA: Inland Northwest Aerospace Technology Center
  • Greenville Technical College, SC: awarding college credit through prior learning assessment for registered apprentices
  • Community College of Baltimore County, MD: offers articulated PLA credit in Aviation Management, Construction Crafts, Criminal Justice, Emergency Medical Technician, HVAC, Interpreter Preparation, Medical Assisting, Medical Terminology, Network Technology and Nursing

Whether your college already offers a degree based on apprenticeship coursework, is considering creating one, or wants to award credit to apprenticeship graduates towards other degrees at your college, you could benefit from joining the Registered Apprenticeship College Consortium (RACC). The RACC is a national network of colleges, registered apprenticeship sponsors, and other organizations committed to college-to-career opportunities. Using prior learning assessment, RACC members are developing opportunities for apprenticeship graduates to earn college degrees in addition to their apprenticeship credentials. Learn more at


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