JITE v34n3 - Registered Pre-Apprenticeship: Successful Practices Linking School to Work

Volume 34, Number 3
Spring 1997

Registered Pre-Apprenticeship: Successful Practices Linking School to Work

Jeffrey A. Cantor
Virginia Community College System

Educational policy during the decade of the nineties has focused on linkages and partnerships between school and community with a focus on comprehensive preparation of students for life and career. Such policy has translated into various federal and state initiatives. Nearly all of these initiatives recognize the key role of employer involvement in the training and educating of tomorrow's skilled workforce through linkagesbetween work-based and school-based learning. Pre-apprenticeship, when offered cooperatively by employers, departments of labor, and vocational-technical schools, represents one school-to-work transition strategy that can effectively meet the goals of these initiatives. The purpose of this study was to provide insights into practices that promote registered pre-apprenticeship program development and delivery. Based upon these findings a pre-apprenticeship model involving schools, business, community groups, and government is offered (Cantor, 1992; 1994).


Registered apprenticeship, a time-tested and proven training strategy that combines employer-based on-the-job training with formal classroom-related instruction, is once again gaining in popularity (Cantor, 1992; Rosenbaum, 1992). In several states, registered pre-apprenticeships are formally recognized as an important component of the state's apprenticeship program. An understanding of registered pre-apprenticeship is desirable for technical educators, since an increasing number of employers and public policymakers are encouraging school-based professionals to assist with promoting and delivering pre-apprenticeships.

Many state economic and workforce development organizations have developed strategies to facilitate collaboration between education and business for job training and economic development (Cantor, 1990). For example, in Florida and Connecticut, the focus of pre-apprenticeship programs has been on recruiting, training, and educating youth for gainful employment. These arrangements are designed to provide for coordination of a high school education, entry-level employment, and transition into post-secondary education. Additionally, these state economic development plans have been configured to reflect national policy initiatives such as "Goals 2000," Tech Prep, and School-to-Work.

Policymakers, educators, and employers are realizing the importance of helping students place their academic work within applied contexts, including work and careers. Through exposure to career opportunities and options, youth can better prepare for continuing education and training following high school graduation (U.S. Dept. of Labor FCA; 1992). One mechanism for facilitating these connections is cooperative partnerships between education and business through registered pre-apprenticeship.

Pre-apprenticeship arrangements also benefit employers. As indicated in The Workforce 2000 report a decade ago, current worker demographics are quite different than in past decades and centuries. The U.S. workforce has changed in make-up and composition. Employers must be prepared to recruit from, and train, diverse populations. As the economy becomes increasingly more global, American workers must be equipped to communicate and work with people of diverse backgrounds, beliefs, customs, and languages (Rosenbaum, 1992). As a result, development of cultural awareness must be a component of workforce preparation. Properly conceived and delivered, apprenticeships provide for opportunities to learn in dynamic environments that combine diverse educational, work, and social experiences.


Registered Apprenticeships

Registered apprenticeships historically have consisted of formalized arrangements among employers, employer associations, labor unions, and state governments. Apprenticeship is typically an industry-based basic or initial training process. By definition:

Apprenticeship is characterized by a contractual employment relationship in which the firm or sponsor promises to make available a broad and structured practical and theoretical training of an established length and/or scope in a recognized occupational skill category. Apprenticeship is a work-study training scheme in which part of the training occurs on the job and part occurs off the job in a classroom or workshop setting. (Glover, 1986, p. 5)

Apprenticeship training is particularly useful for occupations requiring diverse skills and knowledge, as well as maturity and independence of judgment. The number and scope of these occupations have expanded dramatically in recent years to include such fields as business and health careers (U.S. DOL, 1989).

Apprenticeships permit employers to train employees to industry-based and controlled standards. Trainees are able to provide immediate services back to the employer while they continue to learn and earn toward the eventual achievement of full journeyman status. These mutual benefits combine to provide a sound base for local and regional economic development (Cantor, 1995b).

Registered Pre-Apprenticeship Programs

The term "registered pre-apprenticeship" as used in this article is based upon a model drawn from the literature described above that involves a form of structured workplace education and training in which: (a) an employer, employer group or an industry, labor union, or other community-based organization collaborates with a secondary or vocational-technical school to provide formal instruction in which the structured work-based experience is a credit-bearing and integral part of instruction; (b) a young apprentice agrees to work part-time after school and during summers and/or vacations for the employer for a specified period of time; (c) an employer agrees, through a registered agreement, to provide structured and formal training in a specific field or trade over a specified period of time in coordination with the secondary school course of study; and (d) the employer commits to a full apprenticeship arrangement after the student graduates from high school and the pre-apprenticeship training has been successfully completed (Cantor, 1995a).

Pre-apprenticeships afford learners with an early opportunity to enter into a system of training and education that motivates by (a) placing school learning into meaningful contexts and (b) providing for continuing long-term career development after high school. At the same time, apprenticeships contribute to the economic development and infrastructure of the participating communities.

Pre-apprenticeships typically are established for students who have reached junior or senior year status at the secondary school level. The student, parent, and employer enter into a formal written agreement (in some states a registration agreement) specifying the kind of work and working conditions to which the student will be exposed.

Students work on a part-time basis throughout the school year and typically full-time during the summer. Wage levels are specified in the agreement, and must conform to state wage and hour laws. Student apprentices' work is supervised by the employer and successful completion of the pre-apprenticeship arrangement is acknowledged by a certificate of mastery.

In states with established pre-apprenticeship programs, the participants' academic and technical education is coordinated by the school in order to appropriately connect work and school-based learning. The goal is to provide for a smooth transition into full apprenticeships combined with continuing post-secondary education (often at a community college). In some states, the arrangement includes an application of credit for hours accumulated in the pre-apprenticeship to the full apprenticeship.


This study involved a state-by-state survey of pre-apprenticeship activity followed by case studies designed to examine the practices employed by several states with legislated (statutory) authority for pre-apprenticeship programs. The principal investigator canvassed state departments of labor having state apprenticeship councils (SACs) in order to identify locations in which unique pre-apprenticeship activities were occurring. Subsequently,case studies were developed for selected states to describe the characteristics, elements, and procedures of their pre-apprenticeship structures, as well as potential for replicability in other states.

Population and Sample

Twenty-eight states have SACs responsible for the administration of registered apprenticeships. This study was limited to those states. An initial state-by-state canvass of the 28 SACs was conducted to determine whether, and to what extent, these states supported registered pre-apprenticeship opportunities for high school students. Representatives from each state having an SAC were interviewed at the January 1996 National Apprenticeship Conference in Washington, D.C. and/or by telephone to gather preliminary data regarding their pre-apprenticeship policies and procedures. Data were collected on the individual state's policies and practices regarding pre-apprenticeship program opportunities and policies for on-the-job training combined with secondary school studies. This included an examination of policies for (a) awarding credit for work experiences, (b) paying wages, and (c) transferring hours into full apprenticeship programs.

The Case Study Method

In this study the case study method provided a useful tool for (a) systematically identifying and reviewing factors influencing successful pre-apprenticeship development program operations, (b) introducing useful new data and perspectives, and (c) providing a structure for the policy and program development recommendations (Yin, 1984). These case studies provided a mechanism for exploring the development and operation of state pre-apprenticeship program policies within the larger economic and educational contexts. For this study, the case study boundary was drawn around the components of a registered apprenticeship program as described in the literature (see Cantor, 1994). As a result of cataloging the components present in a traditional model (e.g., use of a formal indenturing agreement; articulation of related classroom instruction with on-the-job training), it was possible to (a) ascertain essential components to include in formulation of policy and operations for successful pre-apprenticeship, (b) develop useful explanations of how to achieve successful replication, and (c) propose recommendations for industrial-technical teacher education practice.

Initial data collection focused on structural and political factors affecting the statewide development of pre-apprenticeship programs. Specifically, data collected focused on: (a) factors that facilitate collaboration between education and business, (b) resources for pre-apprenticeship program development, and (c) various interorganizational collaboration configurations used in effective programs.

The analysis also included a "pattern-matching analysis" procedure. This process calls for the entire "pattern" of a case's experiences (those components present) to be matched to one or another of the pre-apprenticeship program trends that emerged as the study progressed. In this manner, each case was used as if it were a single study (not unlike a single experiment or a single survey), and these multiple cases were matched repeatedly to the same set of theoretical criteria. The overall evidence then can provide a strong case for making policy and program recommendations. Specifically, it is possible to identify which component(s) accounted for the outcomes. As a result, the study had the potential for informing policy recommendations if all of the sites followed similar scenarios. The evidence then would provide a strong basis for supporting the use of similar scenarios in future efforts. At the same time, the study was designed to uncover any new and unexpected strategies that constituted the driving force(s) behind a particular site's success. In this way, the study design permits both theory testing and theory development.

Data Collection

Data were collected, analyzed, and arrayed to address selected variables identified in the literature concerning pre-apprenticeship development and operation.

State involvement in pre-apprenticeship. These data were collected initially via personal interviews with state apprenticeship directors and their staff. In the first round of the study, personal and telephone contacts were made with each SAC state to determine if the state had developed provisions for registered pre-apprenticeship programs. Data supplied were then reviewed and analyzed to determine the magnitude and extent of each of these state's pre-apprenticeship activities. The study sought to determine numbers of states that are formally (by registration) or informally sponsoring pre-apprenticeship (see Table 1). Furthermore, each of these SAC states' activities was reviewed to determine if legislative authority statutorily exists for pre-apprenticeship program sponsorship. Once the first round of the study was completed, Connecticut, Maine, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Oregon were selected for the second round. This second round consisted of an in-depth case study to address the following areas of inquiry.

Organizational arrangements for pre-apprenticeship. Data were collected and reviewed to determine the degree and form of collaboration among schools, employers and employer associations, community-based agencies, unions, etc. This included the numbers and kinds of employers involved, numbers of students involved, and methods used for program outreach.

Formal standards and indenture procedures. Data collection identified (a) how program standards were developed; (b) which trades and occupations are involved; (c) what works best (and why) in terms of program design and operation (e.g., processes for granting school credit for on-the-job training; numbers of hours weekly that a pre-apprentice may work on the job); (d) indenturing procedures (formality of process, including who must sign); and (e) established wage structures.

Access to external funding or resources. Programs were reviewed to ascertain whether schools, community-based organizations, students, and/or employers derived incentives designed to promote collaboration (e.g., increased enrollments; better retention rate of students). Information regarding perceived barriers to program development also was solicited from participating organizations. Program analyses sought to determine if participation in pre-apprenticeship provided access to external funding or resources, such as shared facilities.

Opportunities for mutual problem-solving. Finally, the study sought to explore ways in which various agencies and individuals addressed problems associated with providing pre-apprenticeships. These problems included such things as employee recruitment, establishing articulation agreements, workplace learning logistics, etc.


Based on initial contacts and interviews, 18 SAC states offer some form of registered pre-apprenticeship. Table 1 summarizes and presents an overview of the findings with respect to the SAC state canvass.

Table 1
Canvass of Pre-Apprenticeship in SAC States

State Pre-
Number of Youth
Funding or

Arizona Yes Yes 16 Secondary Schools 20 Up to 1,000hrs
California Yes Yes 16 Secondary Schools   Up to 1,000hrs
Conneticut Yes Yes 16 Vocational-technical
100 2,000 hrs/
Machine Tool Tax Credit
Deleware No  
District of
Yes No 18 Career education
Approx. 40 Up to 1,000 hrs
Florida Yes Yes 16 Vocational centers Approx. 100 Upto 1,000 hrs
Guam No Data  
Hawaii NO   16   State has STW Grant
Kansas No Data  
Kentucky Yes Yes 16 Secondary Schools Under 10 Full hours possible
Louisiana No No 16 Secondary Schools Not Avail. Step-Up HUD Pre-
Maine Yes Yes 16 Tech. ctr/Tech coll./
or business dev ctr.
35 Up to 1,000 hrs1
Maryland No   16   Pending Litigation2
Massachusetts Yes Yes,
foudation w/ high
schools and VTS
30 Tax Credit Incentive
Minnesota Yes Yes 16 Secondary schools via
interagency coordinator
and local consortia
1993 Laws Provides
Funding to DOL
2,000 hrs
Montana Yes No 16 with
Secondary Schools Not Available
Nevada Yes Yes 16 Secondary Schools 19 Up to 2,000hrs
New Hampshire Yes Yes 16 with
Secondary School w/
Bureau of Apprenticeship
Training Condition
36 OJT Credit3
New Mexico No   Plans Pending4
New York Yes No 16 High School Not Available N/A
North Carolina Yes Yes, Special
16 High School or tech
Comm College
Ohio Yes Yes 16 High School must sign
agreement to permit
students to work
Oregon Yes Yes 16 High School 22 Training Reimbursment6
Pennsylvania No   16      
Puerto Rico No Data         nbsp;
Rhode Island Yes No 16 with
N/A N/A Guidelines in
Vermont Yes Yes 16 Voc-tech centers 12 Upto 2,000hours
Virginia Yes Yes 16 Secondary Schools 120 1,000hrs/
prg. dates to 1990
Virgin Islands No   18      
Washington No Data          
Wisconsin No   16      

1RFP Process for Pre-Apprenticeship Centers; 2-Year employer commitment required.
2Current litigation pending respective to minimum age of entry to apprenticeship.
3Credit for all OJT work plus related instruction credit. College credit where possible
4State is in process of working to promote changes in insurance coverage policies for school districts.
Plans have been fromed for youth to apprenticeship programs

5Parent's Signature Required if Under 18.
6A state statute permits $2,500 training reimbursement to employers.

States with Specific Policy and Procedures for Pre-Apprenticeship

Policy mandates are the primary reason why pre-apprenticeship programs happen in some states. States such as Connecticut have passed legislation specifically calling for pre-apprenticeship opportunities for youth. Several states have policy and procedural guidance for pre-apprenticeship program sponsorship, including Connecticut and North Carolina. Additionally, 12 other states provide through registration, pre-apprenticeship for high school youth. After the first phase of the study was completed, states with policy mandates were once again contacted to obtain additional detail (e.g., how long the pre-apprenticeship program had operated in the state; the numbers of youth, schools, and employers participating). Case studies were developed for two states having policy-supported pre-apprenticeship programs. A third case study focused on a pre-apprenticeship model developed by a national educational foundation.

The Connecticut Model

The state of Connecticut's statutes (Connecticut Regulations 31-51d 1-12) provide for pre-apprenticeship program registration. Pre-apprenticeships for high school age youth have been in practice in Connecticut since 1981.

In Connecticut, the Department of Labor's Bureau of Apprenticeship cooperates with the state vocational school system to advertise, promote, and deliver pre-apprenticeship program opportunities for high school age youth. The pre-apprenticeship program allows students who are at least 16 years old to initiate their technical careers through apprentice training as part of their high school education. Students must obtain parental consent to enter the program and are required to formally register with a program sponsor (employer) under the same conditions and criteria used when registering for full apprenticeships. Approximately 100 high school students per year participate in the pre-apprenticeship program. The formal cooperative work experience agreement includes a stipulation that the student is responsible for transportation to and from the job. Students must also provide verification of automobile insurance when personal vehicles are used for such transportation.

The vocational-technical high school instructor/coordinator, in collaboration with the Connecticut Bureau of Apprenticeship field supervisor and the cooperating employer, is responsible for developing a plan of work that will be followed on the job. This plan also must include a description of how work experiences will be meaningfully connected to, and coordinated with, learning in the high school classroom, thus meeting mutual goals. Consistent with full apprenticeship programs, a specific plan of work outlining the requirements for the trade is to be registered and followed by the employer in training the pre-apprentice. To ensure a balance between work and school, participating employers are restricted from allowing students to work more than 21 hours per week while school is in session. If students fail to report to school on a particular day, they are not allowed to report for work. Students also must (a) obtain work permits, (b) agree to be punctual, (c) maintain job card records, (d) return the cards to the school instructor, and (e) follow the rules and regulations of the employer. Up to 2,000 hours (one year) of work accumulated by pre-apprentices in the classroom, after school, on weekends, and during the summer are creditable toward completion of full apprenticeships if students choose to pursue that particular field after graduation from high school. The duration of pre-apprenticeships must not exceed a total of 2000 hours in a 24-month period.

From an educational perspective, the Connecticut vocational-technical schools' officials reported that pre-apprenticeship arrangements have been an excellent form of instruction and have provided significant opportunities for students to participate in cooperative work and learning experiences. Vocational-technical school officials indicated that pre-apprenticeship arrangements have supplemented the schools' trade training with excellent on-the-job opportunities provided by employer-supplied instructors.

As part of the development of any apprenticeship program, employers participate in developing skill standards for their industry along with the state Department of Labor. Employers view this opportunity as but one benefit for participating in the program. The most frequently reported incentive found in Connecticut promoting business and industry participation in pre-apprenticeship was the development of potential workers trained to industry standards. One employer interviewed had himself been a pre-apprentice while he was in high school. The Connecticut Business and Industry Association (CBIA) has recognized the benefits derived from pre-apprenticeship participation, and many of its members have become actively involved in promoting and participating in pre-apprenticeship programs.

Many of the work-and-learn opportunities have been in the manufacturing industries. Employers participate in the recruitment and selection of students, through trade associations, and the CBIA. They also interview and select potential pre-apprentices for their firms and provide work-site mentors and supervisors for their apprentices. Additionally, employers must (a) provide appropriate and safe work environments for their apprentices, (b) assess apprentices' progress, and (c) interface with the Connecticut Bureau of Apprenticeship Training and school personnel to adapt on-the-job instructional strategies as necessary. Approximately 300 employers statewide have participated in pre-apprenticeship programs since the program's inception.

Post-secondary school employment represents an important incentive for student and school participation in pre-apprenticeship. The Connecticut Department of Labor reports that over 90% of all pre-apprentices continue into full-time apprenticeships following high-school graduation. While other states require that employers make a good faith commitment to continuing a pre-apprentice's employment and training after high school into full apprenticeship, Connecticut makes no such provision. (In Maine, a two-year commitment to pre-apprentices after high-school graduation is necessary for an employer to participate.) Connecticut, however, uses a machine tool tax credit incentive (and is considering expanding it to the plastics industry) to promote apprenticeship program development and participation in that family of industries. Wages also represent a major incentive for student participation. By statute, employers are required to pay wages to the apprentices in accordance with the state's wage and hour laws. However, there is no provision for incremental wage increases in Connecticut, and a pre-apprentice can be paid the minimum wage.

Several key elements form the basis for Connecticut's pre-apprenticeship program success. First, the program is structured to require the involvement of secondary schools, students, parents, employers (and employer associations), and the state Bureau of Apprenticeship Training (BAT). Second, this collaborative structure is complemented by a formal indenturing (registration) agreement that is signed by all parties. This agreement specifies the work processes to be learned at the work site by the student as agreed upon by school official and employer. Third, incentives for students include the application of pre-apprenticeship credit towards full apprenticeships following high school graduation. Fourth, the school, in turn, gains an employer as an ally. Formal procedures govern the entire student, school, employer, and BAT relationship. Hence, a quid pro quo exists for all.

The North Carolina Model

North Carolina has one of the largest pre-apprenticeship student participation rates in the nation-approximately 400 youth per year (at the time of this study). This program began full operation in 1993. Much like the Connecticut program, high schools, the participating employers, the Department of Labor (DOL), and parents of the youth, partner together to deliver the program. The school is required to (a) assist with apprentice selection, (b) provide a coordinator/school mentor who will counsel and guide the apprentices, and (c) provide coordination between the school and work-based components of the learning experience. School personnel also interact with the DOL to coordinate the pre-apprentices' schedules in order to evaluate the pre-apprenticeship program and to award credit toward high school graduation.

In North Carolina, pre-apprenticeships are made available to students through their high school via the DOL regional coordinator for apprenticeship. The regional DOL apprenticeship coordinator works directly with schools and employers to place apprentices. North Carolina officials reported that a favorable climate has been established to encourage secondary schools and businesses to co-sponsor pre-apprenticeships. The state's efforts with the Fair Labor Standards Act and North Carolina Wage and Hour Act legislation have played a major role in facilitating these arrangements. To further promote business and education cooperation across the state, a handbook has been published that lists several hundred employers who are available to participate in the program statewide. These employers range from small firms to larger companies such as Dow-Corning.

Another significant aspect of the North Carolina model is the coordination of related pre-apprenticeships with the community-technical colleges. Pre-apprenticeship registration agreements include tuition incentives designed to facilitate and motivate students to continue their education at the associate-degree level following high school in conjunction with continuing full-time apprentice training. Since approximately 70% of high-school age apprentices continue on with their apprenticeship upon graduation from high school, this coordination with area technical community colleges provides a valuable mechanism for encouraging these students to pursue higher education.

Many secondary schools reported a need for policies and procedures to maintain academic standards or to ensure control over the educational processes related to pre-apprenticeship program involvement. As was the case with the Connecticut model, North Carolina's secondary schools are assured control over academic standards. These concerns are addressed by designated secondary school coordinators to interact with regional DOL apprenticeship coordinators. The policy stipulates that the school's department head will designate an individual responsible for conducting periodic work site visits. A formal pre-apprentice indenture agreement is also used in this state.

North Carolina officials believe that an important incentive to marketing pre-apprenticeship opportunities is a realistic wage. Unlike Connecticut, legislation in North Carolina mandates that youth be paid a minimum of 50% of journeymen wage during the first year of participation rather than minimum wage.

Throughout the study, a key concern voiced by employers had to do with liability issues related to employment of minors in pre-apprenticeship arrangements. Potential solutions to insurance problems appear to rest in applying for insurance carrier waivers in order to mitigate problems inherent in pre-apprenticeship. In North Carolina, this concern has been addressed through legislation exempting pre-apprentices from the Child Labor law, thus covering the students under Workman's Compensation insurance while on the job. This has provided substantial protection to employers and has removed a significant barrier to employer participation.

Many of the same elements are in place in North Carolina as was discussed earlier in the Connecticut case. Collaboration among school officials, employers, DOL personnel, parents, and students have facilitated pre-apprenticeship program success. Likewise, procedures for student recruitment and registration, and employer involvement in identifying work competencies ensure that this collaboration works smoothly. Another key to pre-apprenticeship program success has been the state's efforts with the Fair Labor Standards Act and North Carolina Wage and Hour Act legislation.

A Non-Profit Organizational Model

Using a non-profit conceptual approach, the National Machining & Tooling Association in the machine tool industry has developed a pre-apprenticeship model in which training is delivered through a non-profit educational foundation comprised of all participating organizations. The problem that led to the organization of the Western Massachusetts' Precision Institute's MECHTECH, Inc. pre-apprenticeship training program was the plight of the small manufacturer in New England. The labor pool was shrinking, skilled workers were retiring, and employers were struggling to maintain necessary levels of skills within their companies. To help address this serious demand for skilled labor in a cost-effective manner, a multi-state consortium of manufacturers was formed and incorporated as a non-profit corporation under the Rhode Island-based MECHTECH, Inc. franchise.

Western Massachusetts' Precision Institute's MECHTECH, Inc. is the pre-apprentice's employer of record. Participating pre-apprentices and apprentices work for MECHTECH, Inc. during the apprenticeship period and are placed at cooperating employer worksites. The Board of Directors (a) establishes student wages, benefits, company charges, and written policies, (b) promotes the program, and (c) recruits students and participating firms. A full-time staff (a) recruits and prepares participating employers, (b) recruits apprentices, (c) supervises the on-the-job training in the field, (d) evaluates the pre-apprentice in conjunction with the employer, (e) coordinates education in the classroom with the work in the field, and (f) serves as a liaison with the government. Participating employers provide a written appraisal of students' work after each rotation. Hence, the pre-apprenticeship and full apprenticeship programs receive wide recognition throughout the industry and community.

A rotation concept is used, whereby pre-apprentices (later becoming full apprentices) are able to experience work across a number of employers and shops, gaining a better perspective of how the industry operates. In an industry where small shops are prevalent, breadth and diversity of experience are important in order to ensure that apprentices experience all facets of the trade. The rotational concept addresses this need. From the employers' perspective, the rotational model allows both apprentice and employer to survive downturns in business while avoiding the difficulties associated with long-term commitments to pre- and full apprentices.

In the MECHTECH, Inc. model, the full apprenticeship program is four years in length with 8,000 hours of prescribed training in the precision metalworking and mold-making industries. Pre-apprentices work to specific entry-level standards designed to prepare them for the full apprenticeship training. Pre-apprentices, drawn from surrounding high schools and vocational-technical schools, are tested and screened for ability and interest (using the NTMA Test Battery) and then placed on the job. The classroom education component of the program encompasses an academic high school curriculum consisting of mathematics and sciences, communications and the arts, plus the technologies associated with the metalworking industry. Pre-apprentices also are required to take three advanced-placement college classes in addition to the high school course of study. These courses are paid for by MECHTECH, Inc. Full apprentices will later be expected to pursue an associate degree in related theory for the industry.

The original MECHTECH, Inc. program is nearly 10 years old. Participating firms are engaged in machining, toolmaking or moldmaking, and/or associated areas as quality control, engineering, or CAD/CAM. They have a willingness to train students and ensure that students will remain with the program until their completion.

Conclusions and Recommendations

A Pre-Apprenticeship Model

The purpose of this study was to examine existent registered pre-apprenticeship programs. Based on an analysis of several case studies, a pre-apprenticeship model was developed (Figure 1), involving partnerships among schools, business, community groups, and government.

Organizational arrangements for pre-apprenticeship.Based on the case studies, pre-apprenticeship policies and procedures are the primary mechanisms for promoting pre-apprenticeship program participation. It was also found that successful pre-apprenticeship program opportunities often evolve from private sector initiatives. Industry-based associations (e.g., The National Tooling and Machining Association) have promoted the development of pre-apprenticeship opportunities in conjunction with regular apprenticeships.

Based on this study, logistical problems (e.g., insurance liability coverage, program administration and promotion, student recruitment, placement, supervision, registration, and employer recruitment and retention) are best managed when a single not-for-profit organization is formed for the purposes of operating pre-apprenticeship programs. This type of centralized organizational structure can be replicated in local settings through alternative structures. Interorganizational alliances and committees can be developed (e.g., LEAs, businesses, economic councils, etc.) with the understanding that they will cooperate to provide youth education and training through pre-apprenticeships. These alliances provide a mechanism within which mutual goals can be met as these agencies and organizational players and resources are pooled and shared in order to meet the various organizations' missions and goals. Appropriate and effective interorganizational cooperation clearly was present in the Connecticut and North Carolina pre-apprenticeship cases. However, this research suggests that pre-apprenticeships may best be delivered through the development of formal centralized organizational structures (i.e., in the MECHTECH, Inc. case). A centralized structure serves to better promote collective goals, objectives, and values rather than any single member's organizational goals and objectives. Figure 1 illustrates a suggested organizational structure for pre-apprenticeship and other forms of school-to-work partnerships.

Figure 1
Pre-apprenticeship articulation model.

Pre-apprenticeship articulation model

At the program level, a sharing of responsibility for program operations and decision making was found to be inherent in the Kentucky and Oregon organizational structures. This collaboration served to promote an understanding of mutual needs of all parties across the pre-apprenticeship partnership. Joint apprenticeship training committees in Oregon have representatives who visit high schools, as local DOL representatives do in Connecticut and North Carolina to promote pre-apprenticeship opportunities and linkages.

Pre-Apprenticeship Appropriateness

Pre-apprenticeships should be undertaken in those technical careers and trades where significant demand exists for skilled workers. Long-term career prospects must be taken into account when deciding to use this training tool to match youth with careers. The Connecticut and North Carolina cases illustrate the essential relationship between industry growth with its associated increase in demand for highly trained personnel and the prospects for successful pre-apprenticeship program development. This has been clearly evidenced in recent years in the health and technical fields.

Not all youth can benefit from a pre-apprenticeship program. Young people must have first made a decision to study a particular occupational or technical/trade area prior to entering into a program of study as focused and rigorous as a pre-apprenticeship. Guidance counselors and teachers should carefully and fully discuss career goals and aspirations with students prior to program placement. A key finding of this research was that successful pre-apprenticeship programs place high value on screening and testing youth prior to acceptance into the program. Also specified levels of achievement in mathematics as well as communications skills have become increasingly more essential to successful involvement in most technical occupations and trades. Some programs use personal interviews with school-based personnel as well as potential employers as a mechanism for screening the communication skill aspect.

It is further recommended, based upon the MECHTECH, Inc. model, that a three-phase process of career exploration and development be undertaken as a segue into pre-apprenticeships. This process should consist of (a) initial exposure to a family of occupations (e.g., health careers), (b) a study of the occupational cluster in the classroom with a limited number of hours of on-the-job observation time with a participating community-based firm or industry, and (c) eventual pre-apprenticeship program placement. Once the student begins to show interest in an occupation, an internship with specific task learning structure provides a valuable means for initiating and orienting students to the occupation and its environmental requirements. When a student proves to be genuinely interested and oriented to the occupation, then pre-apprenticeship placement is appropriate.

Formal Standards and Indenture Procedures

Formal written arrangements are essential to ensuring mutual benefits to those involved in pre-apprenticeships. Occupations that are identified for pre-apprenticeship should be those that have demonstrated promise for long-term and sustained employment and commitment to (and need for) formal training and preparation. A master journeyman should be available for providing the on-the-job training and supervision. When possible, formal partnerships among clusters of companies (i.e., the MECHTECH, Inc. case) are desirable due to the advantages involved in rotating pre-apprentices through a number of firms. Rotation provides exposure to the range of jobs and tasks specified in the training plan.

Formal written agreements between all participating parties detailing the responsibilities of each organization are essential to program success. Also, written policies detailing procedures of student recruitment, screening, testing, and registration into apprenticeship are necessary. Parental consent must be obtained and formalized. Competencies to be learned and mastered by students for both work and school credit must be developed and documented. Joint standards used by the departments of education and labor make coordination of training goals easier for the school system and apprenticeship registration agency (as demonstrated in the Connecticut case). Articulation agreements between secondary schools and community colleges are also desirable to ensure that pre-apprentices receive higher education upon high-school graduation (as in North Carolina's case).

Addressing the Problems and Challenges

Businesses, educational institutions, and state departments of labor need mechanisms to address problems inherent in employing and training students. Representative problems include complying with federal wage and hour laws and workman's compensation guidelines (New Mexico is presently working with the public schools to try to devise strategies to mitigate this problem). Florida and other states reported that child labor laws and insurance regulations pose barriers to use of pre-apprenticeship by most employers. As reported in one of the case studies, North Carolina has successfully overcome these barriers.

Another problem has to do with program capacity. Some states reported that small and medium-sized firms can only accommodate limited numbers of pre-apprentices in a given time period. The MECHTECH, Inc. model provides a means of addressing this concern. Other significant problems detected in the research included parents' perceptions of the value of apprenticeships compared to higher education. The practice of offering apprenticeships first to employee children was found to pose problems in some locations, thereby raising concerns over pre-apprenticeship program access.

A Quid Pro Quo-Access to External Funding and/or Resources

In order for business to sponsor pre-apprentices, incentives must be provided. One of the primary concerns of businesses had to do with the issue of insurance coverage to limit liability. This concern was successfully addressed through the non-profit corporate organization MECHTECH, Inc. model. When the pre-apprentice was employed by a not-for-profit corporation rather than the sponsor-employer, the MECHTECH, Inc. charter assured that pre-apprentices would receive predetermined and competitive wages, medical insurance, Workman's compensation and liability insurance, and industry-standard paid holiday and vacation benefits. Consequently, employers were relieved from the costs associated with these aspects of the program. In the MECHTECH, Inc. case, the associated costs were part of the hourly wage paid for the apprentice's services.

Financial incentives were also an important part of the structure of this non-profit foundation operating concept. For organizations using non-profit foundations as a mechanism for delivering pre-apprenticeships, financial incentives may be derived from pooling costs and attracting external monies. This pooling of costs permits small shop owners to benefit from pre-apprenticeship training in a cost-effective manner. Apprentices also receive a stipend for college tuition expenses. Thus, the employer compensates the not-for-profit entity for the pre-apprentice's services. All work-related paperwork is handled by the not-for-profit educational foundation. Likewise, issues of work availability during a particular firm's downturns and the availability of work in particular skill-related aspects of a trade are accounted for in the apprentice's plan of work. Hence, an employer is more motivated to participate.

Motivating schools to participate. Pre-apprenticeship provides a link between the business community and educational institutions. Certainly one major goal of any school-based career or occupational program should be to provide realistic and appropriate education and training for students, leading to job placements. Pre-apprenticeships (by definition) provide this type of education and training and job placement. Through these partnership arrangements, schools work with business to achieve mutual goals, placement, and job-site training support. Through participation, schools can reap additional benefits such as access to equipment and laboratories which otherwise would not be available for instructional purposes.

Motivating students to participate. Students must comprehend the value of combining occupational training with school, work, and opportunities for continuing education. Pre-apprenticeships afford them with opportunities to begin to master high-demand technical careers while still in high school. In most of the states offering some form of pre-apprenticeship, hours in the classroom and on the job were creditable to full apprenticeships. As seen in this study, a significant number of pre-apprentices eventually move on into adult apprenticeships. In the North Carolina case, college participation was incorporated as an integral part of the pre-apprenticeship. This provided a head start toward a two-year degree in a field related to a selected career. One additional benefit to students is the ability to earn an attractive and appropriate wage, usually 60% of journeyman wage rates during the pre-apprenticeship.

Pre-apprenticeship students are able to access training and education in a wide array of occupations. In fact, pre-apprenticeship occupational areas often reflect more economically-relevant occupational matches than do full apprenticeships (including health occupations, technician-level computer occupations, office occupations, child care, interpreting for the deaf, graphic arts, and machine tool technology). Additional apprenticeship opportunities emerge annually, as illustrated by New Mexico's need to develop program standards for theater stage hands and culinary arts workers.


This study has focused on the key elements of pre-apprenticeship program design, development, and operation based upon case studies of successful practices used across various states. Described were organizational arrangements for pre-apprenticeship that ensure effective communications through understanding of mutual roles and responsibilities. The importance of appropriate procedures of student identification and program placement were also highlighted, as were the challenges associated with program development. Policymakers, educators, and employers should continue to collaborate on ways to creatively address the employability needs of students and society. Pre-apprenticeship programs represent one viable option.


Cantor, J. A. (1995a, January). Apprenticeships link community-technical colleges and business and industry for workforce training. Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 19(1), 47-71.

Cantor, J. A. (1995b, January). Apprenticeships start recruits off on the right boot. Fire Chief, 39(1), 74-80.

Cantor, J. A. (1994). Apprenticeships and community colleges: Linkages in America's defense. Journal of Industrial Teacher Education, 31(3), 8-27.

Cantor, J. A. (1992). Apprenticeships, business and organized labor, and community colleges: Emerging partnerships. Journal of Studies in Technical Careers, 14(2), 97-114.

Cantor, J. A. (1990, Summer). Job training and economic development initiatives: A study of potentially useful companions. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 12(2), 121-138.

Glover, R. W. (1986). Apprenticeship lessons from abroad. Columbus, OH: National Center for Research in Vocational Education.

Rosenbaum, J. E. (1992). Guidelines for effective school-employer linkages for apprenticeship. In Youth Apprenticeship in America: Guidelines for Building an Effective System. A Monograph: Youth and America's Future. Washington, DC: William T. Grant Foundation, Commission on Work, Family, and Citizenship. 82 pp. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 355340)

U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration. (1989). Apprenticeship 2000: Summary Report of Focus Papers. Washington, DC.

U.S. Department of Labor, Federal Committee on Apprenticeship (FCA). (1992). Position Paper on Apprenticeship. Washington, DC.

Yin, R. K. (1984). Case study research: Design and methods. Beverly Hills, California: Sage Publications.

Reference Citation: Cantor, J. A. (1997). Registered pre-apprenticeship: Successful practices linking school to work. Journal of Industrial Teacher Education, 34(3), 35-58.
Tracy Gilmore