If you are not familiar with the Apprenticeship Programs at the State University of New York (SUNY), now might be the perfect time to learn more.
For starters, there are currently large amounts of federal funds flowing into Registered Apprenticeship programs, along with state tax credits in place through 2022. Plus, the business closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have put thousands of New Yorkers out of work, creating a pool of individuals who might see apprenticeships as the way to secure positions and improve their lives. All of this adds up to a possible solution to your workforce challenges.
“There are great benefits to both employers and employees who engage in Registered Apprenticeship programs,” said Denise Zieske, Director of Workforce Development in the Office of Community Colleges and the Education Pipeline at the State University of New York (SUNY). “It can be an important recruitment tool and help with retention. We find that employees will stay with employers longer than they otherwise would have because they feel the employer has committed to them, helped them get training, and invested in them.”
There are two programs that fall under the umbrella of “Apprenticeship Programs at SUNY,” which SUNY System Administration offers in partnership with the State Department of Labor (NYSDOL) and U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) to help cover the costs of an apprentice’s training. The programs are closely affiliated with SUNY community colleges and other partner organizations.
The first is the SUNY Apprenticeship Program (SAP), which is state funded and deals with several sectors, including advanced manufacturing, health care, IT and “other non-construction” trades.
The second is the NY College Apprenticeship Network (NYCAN), which is sponsored by a $7.9 million grant from the USDOL and administered by the SUNY Research Foundation. This program is targeted specifically to advanced manufacturing.
With an apprenticeship, an employer identifies the trade the apprentice will learn and then has the option of becoming a registered sponsor or working under a group sponsor. The trades most frequently supported through the program include CNC Machinist, Electronics Technician, Metal Refinisher, Mold Maker, Toolmaker, Quality Assurance Auditor and Industrial Welder, although the list of possibilities is long. NYSDOL collaborates with employers to help them develop Registered Apprenticeship programs depending on the employer’s workforce need and the skills necessary for the job.
There are two parts to an apprentice’s instruction. The first is on-the-job training, the cost of which may be partially offset through SUNY’s NYCAN grant if a business has fewer than 50 employees. As part of the training, a skilled worker is paired with the apprentice to help them reach specific milestones.
“One of the things employers cite is that their skilled employees are planning to retire over the next few years,” Zieske said. “A Registered Apprenticeship program is a great way for them to pass on their skills and knowledge to newer employees.”
The second part of training is called “related instruction” and involves coursework, such as a math or welding class. Related instruction complements the hands-on training. Apprenticeship Programs at SUNY will cover some of the cost when that instruction takes place at a SUNY college. SUNY can even customize training for a specific company, with instruction taking place at their site or on campus. This helps both the SUNY college and employer develop relevant and timely instruction for apprentices.
In addition to the state and federal training support, employers who sponsor or participate in a Registered Apprenticeship program are eligible for the Empire State Apprenticeship Tax Credit (ESATC), which is available through 2022.
As of mid-June, there were nearly 18,000 apprentices working at businesses across New York State with hundreds in the manufacturing sector.
Historically, SUNY has worked with apprentices in the 18 to 24 year old age range, but “with all the recent changes, and so many people changing careers, we think that trend might change,” Zieske said. “There may be more seasoned workers looking for stable employment in a new field.”
For the apprentices, the attraction is not only the ability to “earn while you learn” but the guarantee of a salary increase down the road. As part of a Registered Apprenticeship program, employers must agree to provide a pay increase at a particular point, such as when a portion of the apprentice’s training is complete or after they have been on the job for a certain amount of time.
SUNY works closely with the Advanced Institute for Manufacturing, which is the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) center serving the Mohawk Valley, to connect with employers. SUNY would welcome working with other MEPs throughout the state that would like to support employers with developing an apprenticeship program.
For more information on Apprenticeship Programs at SUNY, click here.