EICC includes Clinton, Muscatine, and Scott Community Colleges. Stretched along the banks of the Mississippi River, the district covers multiple counties with an approximate service area population of nearly 300,000. EICC started working with apprenticeship programs several years ago with a handful of business and industry partners. EICC has steadily grown its apprenticeship programs and apprentices since 2017. The 20-21 academic year is an outlier with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Paula Arends, EICC’s Director of Continuing Education and Professional Development, said the game changer for them was when the US Department of Labor permitted community college programs to develop and hold apprenticeship program standards and serve as sponsors. “The most challenging part of developing standards for industry is planning the related training. Having college standards allows us to provide a template that may be a perfect fit for the company or a good starting point to adapt to meet their needs. Start-up time for a company’s apprenticeship is often reduced by months.” EICC offers “mirrored classes” that enable apprentices to take training on the non-credit/training side of the house, which industry tends to prefer, and transfer their coursework over to a credit transcript. Apprentices attend the same classes as for-credit learners. Some apprentices have decided to pursue a college degree using the courses required by their apprenticeship standards.
Ms. Arends explains what is most important about EICC’s mirrored class approach. “It is good for learners and employers—employers can provide training, which meets their needs, and apprentices who wish to pursue a college credential can be working toward that goal at the same time.” Upon completing the apprenticeship program, learners are well on their way to a degree should they so choose. Employers value the apprenticeships as a means to add skilled workers more quickly and find apprentice skills attuned to their needs. EICC has benefited from increased business and industry partners, using apprenticeship programs as a partner recruitment tool. Revenue for the department has grown, and business and industry partnerships are stronger, spilling beyond apprenticeship programs.
Funding from AACC’s ECCA program permitted the necessary personnel to support apprentices throughout the program. As apprenticeships grow at EICC and grant funding expires, effectively supporting the apprentices will be challenging. Still, due to the program’s growth, EICC anticipates continued support through tuition revenue. Ms. Arends explained that EICC has learned a lot throughout its apprenticeship journey and is willing to modify its approach to keep the program working effectively for all stakeholders. For example, EICC now requires apprentices have set start and end dates for classes that follow the academic calendar. Flexible course starts proved to be too taxing on resources for instruction, coordination, and apprentice support as program numbers increased. EICC continues to build its apprenticeship offerings with a mirrored class approach.