What is an Apprenticeship Program?

October 19, 2023


Apprenticeships have been around for quite some time. From our early forefathers, such as George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, the practice of having an apprentice has been used. 

In the early days, the industries that made use of apprentices were carpenters, mason, and shipwrights. Today, apprenticeships are offered in a wide variety of industries and occupations including skilled trades, construction, technology, healthcare, energy, and manufacturing. 

The apprenticeship we know today all started in 1937 when the National Apprenticeship Act (NAA) was signed into law. A result of this is the establishment of the Registered Apprenticeship Program. Through the approval of the NAA, the Department of Labor was able to issue regulations for the health, safety, and welfare of apprentices. There are also regulations issued preventing the racial, ethnic, age, and gender discrimination in apprenticeship programs. (Our History, n.d.)

Today, Registered Apprenticeships are a solution for businesses to meet their labor needs while creating a skilled workforce. Both businesses and workers benefit from Registered Apprenticeships. Some facts that prove the efficacy of Registered Apprenticeships are as follows:

  • The average starting salary of a worker after an apprentice completes an apprenticeship program is $80K
  • 90% of apprentices retain employments after completing their apprenticeship
  • Those who have completed apprenticeship earn more over their lifetime compared to their peers who did not
  • 93% of apprentices who complete a registered apprenticeship retain employment, with an average annual salary of $77,000

Currently, there are 800,000+ apprentices across the United States. Since 2013, the number of apprentices has grown year on year with a total of 106% increase up to present. (Data and Statistics, n.d.) Apprentices under the Registered Apprenticeship Program are handled by The Office of Apprenticeship or by State Apprenticeship Agencies.

What is the Difference Between Apprenticeship, Mentorship, and Internship

There are various differences between these models. Some of their characteristics may overlap or intertwine, but they are key attributes that make them distinct from one another.

What is a Mentorship?

A mentorship focuses on the critical foundations of personal effectiveness and abilities. A mentorship usually happens in an organizational setting wherein the mentee is already an employee. A more senior member of the organization is the mentor and shares what they have learned in their occupation within the organization or within the industry. The mentor influences the professional growth of the mentee. A mentorship aims to enhance a mentee’s skill set, especially in communication and problem solving.  (Apprenticeship Minnesota, n.d.)

What is an Internship?

An internship program, on the other hand, is usually a course requirement and designed for students to get a feel of the workplace.  It is usually less structured and focuses more on smaller tasks. It also does not concentrate on a specific trade or industry. It aims to help interns, who are usually college students, get a feel of different occupations to help them decide on their chosen career path. 

Internships also only span a couple of months versus an apprenticeship which runs a longer length of time. Internships are also not paid or only paid minimally. They are applied through an intern’s college or university. An internship also does not get an intern a credential and it’s main goal is to provide work experience.

What is an Apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship, although also has some of the benefits of an internship or mentorship, is more structured. An apprentice can work with a mentor who will guide them through enriching their skill set for a specific trade or industry. An apprenticeship also usually spans several years, usually from a year to four years. 

One of the main differences of an apprenticeship from the other two models is that it has competitive wages. An apprenticeship also most likely will lead to a role with the chances of retaining employment more likely. Apprentices also gain a portable credential, which they can utilize in their future roles.

The Apprenticeship System

The apprenticeship system is comprised of two entities who are responsible for managing Registered Apprenticeship Programs. The first one is the Office of Apprenticeship which is under the U.S. Department of Labor. The second one is State Apprenticeship Agencies (SAA).

Both entities provide guidance and support to organizations and sponsors about the apprenticeship model, developing the program, advising on funding sources, and connecting them to training providers. While similar, there are some key differences between the two entities.

State Apprenticeship Agencies (SAA)

State Apprenticeship Agencies are recognized by the Office of Apprenticeship under the federal U.S. Department of Labor to manage apprenticeship programs in their state. They are agencies under the state government who have responsibility and accountability for registered apprenticeships within their respective states. Their staff members are state employees. (Apprenticeship System, n.d.)

The SAA, despite being a state entity, can still utilize federal paperwork and documentation and utilize the Registered Apprenticeship Partners Information Data System (RAPIDS) system, which is the Registered Apprenticeship Partners Information Database System. However, some SAAs may use their own independent system. SAAs register apprentice programs on behalf of the Office of Apprenticeship. (Apprenticeship System, n.d.)

There are specific states that operate under SAAs. To check if an SAA covers your state, you can click here.

The Office of Apprenticeship (OA)

The Office of Apprenticeship manages Registered Apprenticeship Programs in areas that are not covered by SAAs through their state field offices. However, the OA may sometimes register an apprenticeship program even though the state wherein the program will be conducted has an SAA. The staff members of the OA are federal employees. (Apprenticeship System, n.d.)

The OA utilizes only the Registered Apprenticeship Partners Information Data System (RAPIDS) for registering and monitoring apprentices and apprenticeship programs. (What Is RAPIDS?, n.d.)

The main goal of the OA is to aid organizations create quality Registered Apprenticeship opportunities and establish a qualified, diverse, and incluse workforce in various industries. They connect them with workers who are seeking to build their careers and earn competitive wages.

One of the most important roles of The Office of Apprenticeship is ensuring that the Registered Apprenticeship program is accessible to targeted populations such as women, veterans, people of color, youth, people with disabilities, justice-involved individuals, and underserved communities. Their office also has Registered Apprenticeship experts in every state to assist businesses and organizations with setting up and maintaining their apprentice program. They also advise organizations on funding sources and connect them to training providers to help them find workers for their companies. (About Us, n.d.)

They also oversee the National Apprenticeship System which comprises different stakeholders and sponsors of the program. You can visit the website of The Office of Apprenticeship (Apprenticeship USA) for more information.

To check if your state is under a State Apprenticeship Agency or the Office of Apprenticeship, check this map.

What is a Registered Apprenticeship?

Registered Apprenticeship is a pathway for employers to attract and develop talent for their future workforce. It is also a pathway for workers to obtain paid work experience, go through hands-on training and related training instruction (RTI), and earn a credential. Registered Apprenticeships are industry-vetted and approved and validated by the U.S. Department of Labor or a State Apprenticeship Agency. (Apprenticeship Defined — National Apprenticeship, n.d.)

The advantages of a Registered Apprenticeship goes both ways. For employers, a registered apprenticeship is a workforce strategy wherein they are able to retain workers that are tailor-fitted for the needs of their organization. For workers, they are able to jump start their career while earning a competitive wage.

A Registered Apprenticeship also benefits the economy in that it helps ensure post pandemic recovery by connecting Americans to quality jobs in industry sectors severely affected by the pandemic, such as supply chain industries. (Explore Registered Apprenticeship, n.d.)

Key Components of a Registered Apprenticeship Program

There are several components that differentiate a Registered Apprenticeship from other on-the-job training programs. 

  • Programs are vetted to ensure industry alignment, and thus, apprentices are honed to perform in highly-skilled and high-demand roles.
  • Registered Apprenticeships are paid roles, and apprentices earn progressive wages.
  • Registered Apprentices have mentors who give instruction in a work setting.
  • The programs ensure that it is accessible, inclusive, and non-discriminating
  • Registered Apprentices have worker protection with proper training and supervision to ensure safety.
  • Apprentices can earn a nationally-recognized credential for their industry
  • Registered Apprenticeship Programs have classroom learning or related training instruction (RTI).
  • Registered Apprenticeship opportunities are distinct from other on-the-job training programs in that it can provide college credit while going through the program.
  • Supplemental classroom learning is structured. Some even had articulation agreements with colleges including minority serving institutions. (Earn While You Learn Today, n.d.)

Various Industries Using Registered Apprenticeships

There are various industries that utilize registered apprenticeships to build their workforce. This workforce strategy has been and continuous to be used by well known companies, such as American Express, Walgreens, and Chipotle, across different industries. (Apprenticeship Industries, n.d.)

Industries that use Registered Apprenticeships are as follows:

  • Advance Manufacturing
  • Agriculture
  • Construction
  • Cybersecurity
  • Education
  • Energy
  • Financial Services
  • Healthcare
  • Hospitality
  • Information Technology
  • Telecom
  • Transportation

To explore registered apprenticeships in approved occupations across these industries, visit this link.

Why Become an Apprentice?

Aside from earning a competitive wage while in the program, there are various benefits to becoming a registered apprentice.

Benefits of Being an Apprentice

  • Easier transition from school study to starting work

Transitioning from studying to working may be jarring for some. Being in a registered apprenticeship may ease this transition as an apprentice will be learning and working at the same time and will not feel the full brunt of pressure and high-demands of work.

  • Earning credentials

An apprentice can earn credentials while on the program for their chosen industry. These credentials are portable and may add value to an apprentice when applying with other organizations within the same industry.

  • Continued and supplemental education

Registered apprenticeship programs include classroom learning. Job-related learning is given to apprentices which aids them in becoming highly-skilled in their chosen industry.

  • Earning a degree

Some registered apprenticeship programs offer the opportunity for an apprentice to earn a college degree. The experience and supplemental learning garnered from the program may be put towards college credits in some institutions. 

  • Having a mentor

The registered apprenticeship program gives the apprentice the opportunity to work with a mentor in their chosen industry. A mentor can guide and aid in training the apprentice whilst also being a primary connection within the industry.

  • Development for a promotion or change of role

Registered apprenticeships also aid a worker develop themselves further and be viable for a promotion within the company. The program aids in developing specialized skills and helps them advance their career. If in case a worker would like to change roles, an apprentice program could also help them transition and learn the skills for the new position.

Youth Apprenticeship

Registered apprenticeships are especially beneficial to Youth Apprentices. The Office of Apprenticeship has Youth Apprenticeships wherein students, whether it be high school or college students, can earn credits for their college degree. (New to the Workforce, n.d.)

  • Gives a chance to earn a wage while studying and avoid student debt
  • Gives the opportunity to have a stable job while having hands-on experience
  • Earn employment and job search experience which will be advantageous when it comes time to them to apply for jobs
  • Training and experience gained can be recognized for high school or college credits
  • Helps them get their foot in the door in their chosen industry
  • Gives the chance to get to get acclimated to a working environment
  • Opportunity to build skills and be more familiar with the industry even prior to getting a college degree
  • Opportunity to connect and learn from mentors industry and life skills

If you would like to take advantage of the opportunity of being a Youth Apprentice, you can visit MyNextMove to find out more about the different careers and industries. Upon choosing an industry, you can visit the Apprenticeship Job Finder.

How to Become an Apprentice

There are several ways to look for apprenticeship opportunities. 

Using the Apprenticeship Job Finder

An apprenticeship seeker can go to the Office of Apprenticeship site and search for opportunities through the Apprenticeship Job Finder. There are several listings in the portal. Each listing contains a link on where to apply.

Going to an American Job Center

American Job Centers help businesses find qualified workers. They can help find an apprenticeship sponsor that is amenable to you. Check for an American Job Center near you.

Through an Employer or Program Sponsor

For most registered apprenticeship programs, a worker would need to apply directly to an employer or program sponsor. 

Checking Partnership on Inclusive Apprenticeship Website

The Partnership on Inclusive Apprenticeship is partnered with different organizations that offer registered apprenticeships. You can check out their site for a list of their apprenticeship partners.


A Registered Apprenticeship has various benefits for one who would like to get a jumpstart on their career path. The program helps apprentices enrich their skills for their chosen trade while being under the protection of the policies of a registered apprenticeship. The program also benefits employers who would like to utilize a registered apprenticeship to enrich and ensure that their future workforce is proficient in their trade and skillful in the industry.

If you are Interested in setting up an apprenticeship program for your workforce strategy, click here to reach out to our team directly.

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