How to speak apprenticeship, part 1

Patrick Cushing
Patrick Cushing
June 27, 2024

So you’ve decided to start an apprenticeship? Or you’re investigating whether an apprenticeship is the right fit for your organization?

One of the best things you can do to make your life easier is investing in learning the language used to define an apprenticeship. Here are a few of the key terms you’re going to want to start with.

Registered Apprenticeship

Many organizations will tell you that they have an apprenticeship program, but do they have a Registered Apprenticeship? Or is this some sort of informal internship? Registered apprenticeship, sometimes referred to as Big A Apprenticeship, is a highly structured training program that meets a nationwide standard.

Why is this important? An apprenticeship certificate needs to mean that we can all agree on. If you go to college, there’s a set standard for what comprises an associates or bachelors degree. The idea here is the same. If you obtain your apprenticeship certification in IT or as a utility wireman, it should mean the same thing to your next employer as the one you worked for during your apprenticeship.

So, registered apprenticeship has a certain standard every program needs to meet. Let’s take a look at the terms that define those standards.

Apprenticeship Standards

This is where the apprenticeship program outlines exactly how the apprentice will be trained – how they’re selected, how many mentors they’re associated with, what they’ll learn on the job, what they’ll learn in the classroom, and how their wage will progress during the program – amongst other things.

Mentor or Journeyworker

Apprentices will be assigned to a mentor or journeyworker to oversee their on-the-job training. The apprenticeship standards will outline the approximate ratio for mentors to apprentices, typically something like 1:1, 1:2, or 1:3. This way, no one mentor has too many apprentices such that they couldn’t possibly oversee their work.

The mentor may be the person who signs off on the apprentices’ on-the-job training progress, or they may fill a more common definition of mentor – someone the apprentice can go to for advice in the organization but not their direct report for overseeing progress.

Work Process Schedule

Apprentices on-the-job training (OJT) plan is outlined in something called a work process schedule. The work process schedule can be written for a time-based, competency-based, or hybrid apprenticeship.

A time-based work process schedule requires the apprentices accrue hours in various categories of their work. This is the traditional apprenticeship OJT model that most building trades programs have used for years.

The work process schedule can also use a competency-based model. This is a specific list of skills or competencies the apprentice needs to accrue, rather than time spent in general categories of work. This is a newer style of apprenticeship where there’s less focus on time spent in a particular area and more spent ensuring the apprentice can perform the exact tasks needed. (It’s worth noting that competency-based programs typically have a minimum number of total hours the apprentice must complete to ensure there’s some basis for comparison with time-based programs, but these hours don't need to be categorized the way time-based programs do.)

Finally, there’s hybrid programs which use both time- and competency-based work process schedules – a combination of both.

Related Instruction

Related instruction, sometimes referred to as related technical instruction, related supplemental instruction, RI, RTI, or RSI, is essentially the curriculum for the classroom portion of the apprenticeship. The requirements for how RTI is handled really varies and would be best thought of loosely as “classroom”.

RTI can be completed with local community college classes, online courses, private courses, original equipment manufaturer (OEM) training, or even your own internal training center. Just note that if you use online courses or an internal classroom, there’ll often be additional requirements here to demonstrate you’re teaching from a certified curriculum in your industry and/or that you have internal staff with sufficient training or industry experience to support the material.

Wage Schedule

The last core definition to know in your apprenticeship standards is the wage schedule. Apprentices typically earn salary increases throughout their program, and these are defined in advance in the apprenticeship standards. An example of a wage schedule would have predetermined increases, or step increases, every 1000 hours of accrued on-the-job training. Apprentices often start at close to 50% of their eventual journeyworker wage and get these step increases until they hit 100% at the end of the program.

Now, that should give you a solid foundation in the core terms that'll define your apprenticeship standards. Stay tuned until next time where we dive deeper in to the language you'll find beyond these standards-specific terms.