Enhancing Workforce Staff Capacity to Grow Apprenticeship

Iowa is committed to building out its apprenticeship expansion systems, including developing a defined role for the workforce investment system.  To do that, Iowa is leveraging business marketing specialists (BMSs) and workforce advisors (who work with job seekers) in its American Job Centers (AJCs).

Apprenticeship Coordinator Amy Beller observed that the Office of Apprenticeship and AJC business service teams were operating in silos.  She brought the State Apprenticeship Director, ATRS, and Business Marketing Team leadership together to design an integrated business outreach process that would result in a smooth hand-off for business customers.  OA created a short referral form covering the apprenticeship standards requirements that BMSs now use in their conversations with employers. This form gives BMSs a simplified structure for conversation with employers and confidence that they are gathering the information required to develop standards.  After working through the form to understand the business's needs, the BMS identifies the related training instruction and sends both to OA for a quality review and program registration.  Iowa is reporting great outcomes: standards are now usually completed within two weeks, the number of new programs has more than doubled, and BMS confidence is "through the roof," says Beller.

On the job seeker side, Beller worked with the largest AJC in the state, located in Des Moines, to design and pilot a referral process.  She then coordinated input and roll-out statewide through the state's four regional directors.  Workforce advisors now screen every client for interest in occupations that are apprenticeable and in the work and learn approach.  Interested job seekers attend a new Registered Apprenticeship workshop (held once or twice a month), where they receive an overview of the program, the requirements, and the occupations.  In the last half of the workshop, workforce advisors work one-on-one with the job seekers to match them with available openings, screen for work readiness, and plan any necessary training and support.  Where no apprenticeship is available that matches someone's interest, AJCs maintain interest lists by ONET codes that allow BMSs to tell potential sponsors: "If you create this apprenticeship, we have 5 people in the area who are interested in this type of position today."

Beller encourages states that want to leverage workforce system resources to involve as many leaders and seek as much input as possible to create the ideal process and buy-in.  Be open about the potential challenges and listen to their ideas for addressing them.  She says to keep facts front and center: In Iowa, a shared dashboard showing the progress of each local area toward its goals sparked some healthy competition.  The procedures are available on the new SAE Grant Administration Peer Resources Page on the Community of Practice.  If you would like more information, please contact Amy Beller at amy.beller@iwd.iowa.gov.