Frontline Initiative Legislative Advocacy

What is an Apprenticeship Program?


Sherrill Wayland is a training specialist at St. Charles Community College, St. Charles, MO.

The 21st century holds many challenges for the workforce as we see industries with skilled workers and leaders approaching retirement age at increasing rates. As we look at the current challenges of recruitment and retention, the human service industry must identify approaches that not only benefit the situation today, but also prepares for the future.

Apprenticeship is one concept that provides a time tested training program that has benefited industry over the centuries. Mark Floretta, St. Louis Apprenticeship Representative, describes apprenticeship programs as, “… world-class training systems that provide a structured education and career pathway for the future. Apprenticeship ensures employability and provides committed workers with required knowledge and skills for the workforce of the future.” Today there are over 850 apprenticeable occupations which shows that apprenticeship training benefits both employers and employees. The DSP workforce now joins the list of apprenticeable occupations, providing human services agencies with a new tool for recruitment and retention efforts. The U.S. Department of Labor points out the following benefits of apprenticeship programs —

Benefits to Apprentice/ Employee

  • Paid employment while training
  • Increased wages as skills and training progress
  • Higher quality of life and skills versatility
  • Portable credentials recognized nationally and often globally

Benefits to Apprentice Sponsor/Employer

  • Decreased employee turnover
  • Enhanced problem-solving capability and versatility of workforce
  • Increased productivity by cultivation a highly-skilled and knowledgeable workforce
  • Enhanced employee relations by developing a collaborative commitment to achievement
  • Attraction of high-quality applicants who are motivated to succeed
  • Increased national and state recognition

Apprenticeship is not designed to be quick fix for retention and recruitment problems. However, it is an opportunity for human service agencies to make a commitment to the future of the direct support workforce and quality services.

As human service agencies approach the apprenticeship process they move toward creating learning environments. Floretta states, “Today’s workplace requires a new kind of worker – one who excels at solving problems, thinking critically, working in teams and constant learning on the job. The future workforce must offer challenging, relevant education and meaningful work-based learning experiences in their communities.” To pursue this endeavor, human service agencies must begin a dialogue with state and national legislators to increase the availability of grants and training funds to this field. DSPs are a vital part of the 21st century workforce and need to advocate for funding to increase training opportunities and wages for a highly skilled, professional human service workforce.

With the recognition of direct support as an apprenticeable occupation, human services agencies across the United States have the opportunity to implement apprenticeship programs, which are voluntary, nationally recognized and provide a selection process to train employees that show true dedication to the field. To establish an apprenticeship program any agency or group of agencies must contact their local Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training Office and/or State Apprenticeship Council. At that time your local apprenticeship representative will walk you through the process of establishing an apprenticeship program.