By Mary Wurtz
State and local governments across the country are beginning to use apprenticeships to address public sector workforce shortages. Aspects of registered apprenticeships, like paid on-the-job learning, low- to no-cost training and mentorship, can create new pathways to public service careers for individuals who otherwise cannot access traditional education or credentials. This is especially true for historically underserved and low-income communities.
Governments use apprenticeship to fill shortages in trade industries, like construction, but also in non-traditional fields for apprenticeship, like information technology, human resources and health care. Registered Apprenticeship Programs, or RAPs, offer high-quality career opportunities that address such trade industry shortages. RAPs are industry-vetted and approved by the U.S. Department of Labor or a state apprenticeship agency. Individuals in apprenticeship programs obtain paid work experience, receive progressive wage increases, earn a nationally recognized portable credential and potentially earn college credit.
On June 16, 2022, Gov. Jared Polis signed Executive Order D 2022-027 to expand the use of Registered Apprenticeship Programs, or RAPs, for Colorado’s state workforce. The order set a goal to increase the number of RAPs offered by state agencies and departments by 20% by the end of fiscal year 2022-23. The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment and the Department of Personnel and Administration are responsible for meeting the goal, which includes:
- Removing administrative and statutory barriers to RAPs.
- Coordinating with related instruction providers, such as institutions of higher education, to enhance RAPs with additional credentials and certifications.
- Developing an equity-driven recruitment and retention strategy.
- Providing state agencies with technical assistance and resources.
The Council of State Governments Center of Innovation worked with Apprenticeship Colorado, which is a program of the Department of Labor and Employment, and the Department of Personnel and Administration, to develop a Civic Sector Apprenticeship Toolkit. The toolkit, spanning more than 70 pages, covers the basic components of Registered Apprenticeship; how to sponsor or join an existing RAP; funding apprenticeship programs; recruitment and hiring of apprentices; supporting and protecting apprentices; and advancing apprentices within the State of Colorado personnel system.
The Civic Sector Apprenticeship Toolkit is geared toward state agency leadership and program developers and is tailored to the requirements of Colorado’s personnel system. Designed as a living document, the toolkit can be adapted by Apprenticeship Colorado and the Department of Personnel and Administration as its apprenticeship policies change.
CSG reviewed the state’s personnel system and collective bargaining agreement for state employees to identify barriers to implementing state government RAPs and potential solutions for overcoming them. As part of this work, CSG also partnered with Gov. Polis’ office to develop resources on aligning Registered Apprenticeship Programs with AmeriCorps service.
In total, Colorado has six apprenticeship programs sponsored by state agencies, including programs within the Department of Transportation, Department of Corrections and Office of Information Technology. In addition to filling personnel needs, state agencies began leveraging the RAP model to deliver core programs, like the Department of Labor and Employment’s Workforce Development Professional program for One Stop Centers and the Department of Local Affairs Operations Manager Program.
Apprenticeship Colorado at the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment is committed to expanding the RAP model across both the public and private sector within the state. Their team offers customized assistance to employers and organizations that want to build their own RAP or join an existing program, as well as supportive services to programs post-registration. Colorado employers are encouraged to contact Apprenticeship Colorado to access its services. The CSG Center of Innovation wants to help states continue to address their own workforce challenges through apprenticeships, work-based learning and other evidence-based career pathways. To learn more about how the Center of Innovation can partner with states on similar work, contact Mary Wurtz via email at [email protected].