Defining apprenticeships

Several members have mentioned to me their apprentices, which led me to believe that they had a U.S. Department of Labor (DOL)-registered apprenticeship program. In some cases, they do have a registered program, and in other cases they have a detailed in-house training program. No matter which they use within their company, both types of programs are utilizing NTCA University. So this made me wonder what the definition of an apprentice is and when a company should decide to register their training program with the DOL.

According to Lexico.com, the definition of an apprentice is “a person who is learning a trade from a skilled employer, having agreed to work for a fixed period at low wages.” A DOL-registered program requires that the employer pay a specific wage or percentage of current journeyman wages with stated pay increases until the apprentice graduates the program and makes the full journeyman wages. An employer with an in-house training program will offer a wage when hiring the person and discuss when/how pay increases occur. They will also discuss how long it will take to get through their program. Assuming that once the new hire completes either of these programs and they are making competitive industry wages for the particular market, then both types of employees could be considered an apprentice per the definition above.

If your company does not have either of these programs but you want to hire new employees and train them per industry standards and methods, you need to take the time to determine which program is best for your company. To help you make this determination, here are few questions to think about:

  • What type of work do you perform? Is it all residential or all commercial or a mix?
  • Are you always looking for new hires to keep your company growing or are you looking for one or two people to hire over the next couple of years?
  • Do you bid government projects?
  • Do you work on projects that require prevailing wages?
  • Do you bid for work against companies that have registered DOL programs?

Based on these questions, if your company does all residential work or is only planning to hire one or two employees over the next year, then an in-house program is probably the best choice for you. But if you do a lot of commercial work, bid project’s with prevailing wages per the Davis-Bacon Act, or are hiring several apprentices a year to grow your business, then you should consider a DOL-registered apprenticeship program.

Either way, NTCA University can be used as part of your training program. If you decide to develop a DOL-registered apprenticeship program, NTCA has National Guidelines for Apprenticeship Standards that could be used by your company to register your program. While each state is different, we are able to assist you to get the necessary paperwork completed. Once your company is approved as a sponsor, you will work directly with your state to register your apprentices and recruit new hires.

Visit the NTCA website for more information on apprenticeships.

Becky Serbin
Training and Education Coordinator at | [email protected]

Becky Serbin is the Training and Education Director for the National Tile Contractors Association.  Serbin oversees the implementation of NTCA University, a learning management software program the association offers for continuing education for tile and stone installation and specifications.  As part of this program, she has worked closely with staff and committee members to develop an Apprenticeship Program that combines on line courses with field experience training.

Serbin joined NTCA after having worked 13 years for Georgia Pacific Corporation where her duties included architectural and technical services, associate product management, and continuing education curriculum development and implementation. At Georgia Pacific, she served as the TCNA Backerboard SubCommittee Chairperson and participated in NTCA Technical Committee meetings and document development. She holds a Masters Degree in Business Administration from Kennesaw State University.