Apprenticeship programs are partnerships between a college and a program sponsor, usually a trade union or employer. The college provides the apprentice with credit or noncredit courses in a vocational field, which are combined with on-the-job training provided by the sponsor. Upon completion of the program, the apprentice becomes a journeyman or other rank within the trade. Apprenticeship programs may include certificates of achievement or associate degrees if they are part of a credit program. Students in apprenticeship programs generally enter the program through an application process with the sponsor, although they may also become fully-matriculated students at the college while completing their coursework.
Apprenticeship programs provide excellent opportunities for students who might otherwise never enroll in college. At the same time, they help the college establish a presence in the community and serve the needs of student equity and other important components of the college mission.
For faculty involved in curriculum, minimum qualifications, and other areas of faculty purview, apprenticeship programs present their own set of unique challenges and opportunities. Below we will address some of the questions a college might wish to ask before implementing an apprenticeship program. Our purpose is not to provide a “how-to” manual for implementation, but simply to acquaint the reader with aspects of the process that may not be immediately apparent.
Is the college on board with the program?
Apprenticeship programs often find their way to campus through workforce outreach or other avenues and may not follow the “normal” progression of curriculum and program development. This may result in little or no direct involvement with the faculty or any prior approval from the academic senate. This is never the way it’s supposed to happen, of course, but it can and sometimes does happen this way. The senate is then put in the uncomfortable position of either having to protest the adoption of the new program on procedural grounds or “going along to get along” for the sake of the students but in the process, abdicating its purview over program development and approval. For colleges that have contemplated or are contemplating adding apprenticeship to their offerings, one way to ensure academic senate involvement is to include language in the senate constitution and curriculum committee bylaws that specifically include apprenticeship programs as something that must go through the existing program development and approval processes prior to being adopted by the college.
The Local Educational Agency (LEA) Agreement is a document that establishes the contract between the college and the apprenticeship sponsor, and as such, it is a critical component of a successful program. Both the curriculum committee and the academic senate need to be involved in the review and approval of the LEA, preferably in direct consultation with the sponsor as well as with the college administration. If the apprenticeship program will involve any additional work on the part of a classified employee, the appropriate bargaining unit and classified senate should be consulted as well. The role of classified staff in implementing apprenticeships is not trivial; for example, a college may find that a new apprenticeship program carries an unanticipated increase in workload for personnel in Admissions and Records to deal with larger-than-usual processing of positive-attendance records.
Is your college aware of the statutory requirements regarding apprenticeships?
There are a large number of relevant statutes and regulations regarding apprenticeship programs. As educators, we immediately think of the Education Code and Title 5, but apprenticeships must also meet requirements spelled out in state and federal Labor Codes. Relevant statutes and regulations include, but are not limited to, California Labor Code sections 3070 – 3098 and California Code of Regulations, Title 8, Division 1, Chapter 2, Subchapter 1.
Apprenticeship programs have traditionally been funded with Related and Supplemental Instruction (RSI) funds, referred to as Montoya Funds. These funds are categorical funds that are dedicated to covering costs related to the apprenticeship programs. As the number of apprenticeship programs in the California community colleges has increased, there hasn’t been enough RSI funding available to properly fund the new programs. The Chancellor’s Office is currently seeking to permit apprenticeship programs to claim apportionment, just like the other programs currently offered at colleges. If this shift occurs, it will become even more important for the local academic senate to take a leadership role in the establishment of new apprenticeship programs.
Finally, it’s important that there be good communication and coordination between all departments on campus that will deal with the apprentices and their records. The success of the program depends on each group being aware of its role and how it fits into the overall goals of the program. For example, course scheduling for apprenticeship programs may not conform to the regular academic calendar, and students may need to have attendance records processed quickly to allow them to progress to the next set of courses. Failure to notify the Registrar’s Office or Admissions and Records well in advance so the appropriate personnel can be put in place to do the work can delay or even derail an otherwise successful apprenticeship program.
Does your curriculum committee have a good working relationship with the program sponsor?
All apprenticeship curriculum requires good coordination between the college curriculum committee and the program sponsor. Many colleges do not have faculty with specific expertise in the trade, so the only source of expertise comes through the program sponsor. The program sponsor may submit a full curriculum that was developed at some point in the past through a joint effort of the trade union, the California Apprenticeship Council, and an industry advisory group or other body. This allows for consistency across similar apprenticeship programs in other parts of the state and spares the college from having to “reinvent the wheel,” but also requires that the curriculum committee exercise some due diligence by comparing the proposed curriculum with that offered in other programs to ensure that it includes the required elements. In order for the curriculum to be approved or chaptered by the Chancellor’s Office, the program sponsor must supply documentation that the curriculum has been approved by the industry. This is usually a letter from the Division of Apprenticeship Standards (DAS). Failure to include this documentation will result in delays in curriculum approval, so it’s important that the sponsor provide this documentation as early as possible in the program development process. Finally, apprenticeship courses should always be assigned a Student Accountability Model (SAM) code of “A” for apprenticeship, so that the correct attendance accounting method can be applied and the college can legally restrict enrollment to those students enrolled in the program.
Conversely, the program sponsor may not have a strong understanding of the Title 5 requirements regarding units, hours, and other curricular elements. Unless both the curriculum committee and the program sponsor work hard to educate one another, there can be miscommunication that results in delays during the curriculum approval process. It’s also important to recognize that the apprenticeship curriculum is treated the same as any other type of curriculum where it comes to chaptering (or approval if the apprenticeship program is in noncredit) by the Chancellor’s Office. It must also meet the same statutory requirements for inclusion in the college catalog and class schedule.
Apprenticeships may include Occupational Work Experience coursework as part of the credit program. These courses can serve as capstone courses if they are taken only once, near the end of the credit program, or they can be taken on an ongoing basis throughout the program. As work experience courses, these courses must adhere to all statutory requirements; namely, a maximum of 8 units per semester and 16 units overall, with a limit of 4 repetitions. As with other apprenticeship courses work experience must be assigned a SAM Code of “A” for “Apprenticeship.”
Does your college have a process in place for oversight of the faculty in the apprenticeship program?
The role of the college in regards to apprenticeship faculty is one of the most difficult aspects of any apprenticeship program. Per statute, the sponsor is responsible for recruitment, hiring and compensation of the faculty; however, the sponsor must also adhere to Faculty Minimum Qualifications for Apprenticeship Programs and college policies regarding evaluation (Title 5 §53413). It’s also important to note that the faculty in apprenticeship programs usually belong to their trade unions, not to the faculty union. Both the college and the sponsor have a lot of flexibility regarding apprenticeship faculty, but it’s important to agree, in advance, to what arrangements will be made and who will be responsible for the work. As the central agreement of the partnership, the LEA should include ALL of the requirements the college and sponsor have agreed upon regarding apprenticeship faculty, including procedures for recruitment, hiring and evaluation of instructors, as well as any policies on code-of-conduct, bullying, sexual harassment, and academic freedom.
Another issue the college must decide is whether to assign a faculty member to serve in the role of department chair/program coordinator over the apprenticeship program or assign that role to an instructional dean or other administrator. For colleges that have specific roles for department chairs as part of the collective bargaining agreement, this may involve discussion or negotiation with the faculty union. No matter how the college addresses faculty management in apprenticeship programs, the academic senate should be consulted before final decisions are made.
In this brief article, we have tried to acquaint the reader with some of the issues that may arise with the implementation of an apprenticeship program. Apprenticeship programs provide an excellent opportunity to help students find a career and they can be extremely successful programs for the college. The potential challenges discussed above can be avoided if all constituency groups join the discussion early in the process and work together to plan and implement the program.