Considering an apprenticeship in Indiana? This guide can help you get started
Higher education is one of the best ways to keep or compete for jobs in times of economic turmoil, experts say. And Indiana employers worry the state’s workforce broadly lacks skills needed in an increasingly tech- and information-based job market.
Apprenticeship can be a path forward for many Hoosiers.
Apprentices can get certified in their chosen fields over a few weeks or a few years. They can get on-the-job training, often paid, combined with classroom instruction at institutions like Ivy Tech Community College.
“Apprentices are employees, who are paid by the company to become experts in a field or occupation,” said Molly Dodge, Ivy Tech’s senior vice president of workforce and careers.
Ivy boasts a 90 percent graduation rate across over 70 apprenticeship programs, and 90 percent percent of those graduates go on to get jobs.
“When I think about the barriers that many of our students face, they are overcome by this apprenticeship model,” Dodge said. “It can work in any industry. And it's a priority for Ivy Tech.”
It’s also a priority for state officials. In 2018, Gov. Eric Holcomb created the Office of Work-Based Learning and Apprenticeship.
“From a per capita standpoint, when we're looking at our workforce, Indiana's absolutely no. 1 with the number of apprentices,” said Darrel Zeck, executive director of that office. “We see more and more interest in more companies wanting to get into this.”
The value of an apprenticeship for students, Zeck and Dodge say, comes from the direct industry influence on program structure. Employers can make sure apprenticeships create job candidates that meet their needs.
If you’re considering the apprentice route, this guide can help you get started:
Decide which industry is right for you
Many people assume apprenticeships are just for fields like construction or just for certain demographic groups, like men, said Jason Graves, senior director at the Office of Work-Based Learning and Apprenticeships. “That is not at all the case anymore.”
It’s true that fields like construction, building trades and advanced manufacturing are heavily represented among Indiana’s 600-plus federally registered apprenticeship providers. But more programs in other fields ranging from cybersecurity to nursing are being added to the state’s roster all the time.
There are a lot of options and a lot of ways to get help in choosing the right one. For example, Ivy Tech has career coaches at each of its 19 campuses.
“And those career coaches help students identify their skills, interests and abilities,” Dodge said. “We take some assessments, we talk about different working environments. And we really dive into, even through use of VR technology, what is a day in the life of some of these industries so that a student really hones in on what career path they're interested in.”
Coaches can even set up conversations with executives or plant tours, Dodge added. For those interested in going beyond Ivy Tech, similar services are offered by the state at WorkOne Centers and the Indiana Career Ready website.
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Make sure you meet educational requirements
Apprenticeships often don’t require more than a high school diploma, with some exceptions. For example, Ivy Tech’s Registered Nurse (RN) apprenticeship is only available to those who are already working on getting that degree. Getting into that degree program requires a high school diploma or equivalent.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, high school students can receive their Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) certification through an apprenticeship before they even get a diploma.
Post-high school adults that don’t have a diploma but still want to get into a program that requires one can find support for getting a High School Equivalency on the state’s website.
Pick the best type of education for your goals
The critical thing that separates an apprenticeship from a traditional college degree or another form of work-based learning is the combination of classroom education and job training.
Students can get both college credits and an industry-recognized certification or other credential depending on the program they choose. Some programs don’t offer both measurements of educational attainment.
Ivy Tech and Vincennes University, for example, have a lot of programs that offer both credits and industry credentials across the state.
The Indiana State Pipe Trades Association, by comparison, offers union apprenticeships at six locations from South Bend to Evansville. These programs’ students don't get college credit, but they do gain journeyman’s certifications for plumbers, HVACR technicians and other piping jobs.
Credits or credentials can be valuable because they “allow individuals to shift gears if they need to,” said Graves.
“Let's say you go from welding to advanced manufacturing, a lot of those skills transfer from one apprenticeship to another and those [certifications] certainly do,” Graves said.
Apprentices often get better wages and job security than most high school graduates, but less than most degree-earners at an undergraduate level or higher, particularly within the same field. Graves notes that apprenticeship programs that offer college credits can make returning to school to get a bachelor’s much easier.
“Apprenticeship isn't the end of a career, it's the beginning of one,” he said. “This is a great way to … earn college credits and to prepare for the future and not have to take out any loans or get any kind of debt.”
Figure out what kind of wage you want – and how much you're willing to pay to get it
The salaries apprentices can expect vary greatly by program type, length and industry. The costs of the programs themselves vary too.
Some programs, like the Electrical Training Institute’s union apprenticeship program, can last five years or more. Students earn both college credits from Ivy Tech and a journeyman’s certification through the program with no tuition cost, apart from about $3,500 to buy books for all five years.
Wages start at $17.90 per hour with benefits during the apprentices’ first year. They slowly increase as the program goes on, peaking at $38.20 an hour after completion.
By comparison, the Independent Electrical Contractors of Central Indiana offers four- or two-year non-union programs that also result in students getting certifications and college credits at Ivy Tech. This provider, however, requires students to pay up to $3,550 in tuition each year.
IEC apprentices are also expected to find an employer to work with themselves. And their wages are set by that employer.
There are much shorter programs. Eleven Fifty Academy, for example, offers three- and six-month apprenticeships in software development. Eleven Fifty charges $7,500 in tuition and says its graduates make an average salary over $53,000 a year.
There are several ways to ease the cost burden of these programs. Some, like Eleven Fifty, offer Income Share Agreements that don’t require students to pay until they get a job at a certain income threshold. They then set regular payments based on their salary.
The state has a no-interest loan and grants that students can use if they and the program they wish to attend qualify. Federal financial aid can also be used for apprenticeship programs that offer college credits.
Some may also be able to get their current employer to pay for their apprenticeship if it’ll help train skills the employer desires.
Find and apply to the right program for you
Indiana has more than 600 apprenticeship providers registered with the U.S. Department of Labor. These can be employers, unions or other organizations that provide the on-the-job training but may or may not be also responsible for the classroom instruction part of an apprenticeship.
The DOL's Apprenticeship Finder website lists programs that are actively seeking applicants.
Some apprenticeships are only offered during certain times of year and may not have applications posted currently. A full list of registered partners is also available on the DOL's website with contact information for those who want more information about future opportunities.
Indiana also likely has many more apprenticeships that are not registered with the DOL. But it can be hard to tell how legitimate those programs are, said Darrel Zeck, executive director of the Office of Workforce Solutions and Engagement.
“Registered apprenticeship or a certified state Earn and Learn, if it's one of those two, we can ensure the quality of that program,” Zeck said, noting the state is working on registering more providers.
Zeck’s clear he’s not saying other programs are bad, “but I can't sit here today and say that I know everything about those or that it's been through our office or the federal office to ensure that the standards meet the quality that we expect.”
Rather than researching and contacting individual providers one-by-one, Hoosiers can simplify the process by going through institutions like Ivy Tech or Vincennes University that have connections with vetted employers, regular application periods and more traditional classroom learning infrastructure.
Help is also available from the state's WorkOne Centers. Their local staff may have a better idea of the types and quality of programs available in specific regions.
Contact reporter Adam at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @arayesIPB.
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