The strategy we are using at City Colleges of Chicago to expand our registered apprenticeship program is three-fold. First, we are looking at every work-based learning opportunity as a U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Registered Apprenticeship program. This is a shift from where we started, where initially we would work to stand-up the program first, and then approach the employer to consider enrolling in the DOL registered apprenticeship programs. Now we approach our industry partners with the value of a RA program and demonstrate the role the college can play in assisting them as a RA sponsor. With the colleges being the sponsors, it removes the administrative burden from the employers, and allows the colleges to enter the discussion with the expectation of the training in partnership with meeting the needs of the industry partner.
The other area that colleges can assist in would be to leverage existing apprenticeship work process structures. This expedites the process by using a pre-approved program element that can be adapted to the specific employer requirements. At the City Colleges of Chicago, we are using the DOL Dropbox, which has more than 1,600 examples to pull from and covers most occupations. The Urban Institute, in partnership with the DOL, established Competency-Based Frameworks. This is a collection of documents, organized by sector, using competencies as a measure of skill attainment instead of hours. This is especially helpful, as we are moving toward more competency-based apprenticeships.
As a RA sponsor, it has allowed the colleges to look at expanding apprenticeships into new occupations, and to collaborate with other community colleges locally and nationally to learn of new programs that they are implementing. This is accomplished through affiliations with technical assistance providers like AACC and Jobs for the Future, as well as other associations such as the National Skills Collation and state agencies such as the Illinois Department of Commerce Workforce Innovation Board, Apprenticeship Committee. We have found that partners are eager to share their programs and curriculum to expand the number of opportunities available through RA programs. One reason for this is that RA programs are industry-based so competition between different communities is not an issue.