ATD Blog

Apprenticeships: Opportunities for Experiential Learning in the Workplace


In celebration of National Apprenticeship Week, November 13-19, 2017, President Trump proclaimed, “We recognize the important role apprenticeships play in unleashing the American workforce. Americans are known for our remarkable productivity, industriousness, and innovative thinking. By pairing these valued traits with the right training, our nation can renew one of our greatest assets—the American worker.” As talent development professionals, we can understand why apprenticeships offer a fantastic opportunity for experiential learning in the workplace.

Registered Apprenticeship

According to the United States Department of Labor, “Apprenticeship is a combination of on-the-job training and related instruction in which workers learn the practical and theoretical aspects of a highly skilled occupation. Apprenticeship programs can be sponsored by individual employers, joint employer and labor groups, and/or employer associations.”

Registered Apprenticeship programs meet the skilled workforce needs of American industry, and have trained millions of qualified individuals for lifelong careers since 1937. Registered Apprenticeship helps mobilize America's workforce with structured, on-the-job learning in traditional industries such as construction and manufacturing, as well as emerging industries such as healthcare, information technology, energy, and telecommunications. Registered Apprenticeship connects job seekers looking to learn new skills with employers looking for qualified workers, resulting in a workforce with industry-driven training and employers with a competitive edge.

Although efforts to create and sustain an internal or company-sponsored apprenticeship should certainly be applauded, Registered Apprenticeship brings added benefits.

For employers, benefits include:

• skilled workers trained to industry or employer specifications to produce quality results

• reduced turnover

• a pipeline for new skilled workers

• reduced worker compensation costs due to an emphasis on safety training.

For apprentices and journey workers, benefits include:


• jobs that usually pay higher wages

• higher quality of life and skills versatility

• portable credentials recognized nationally and often globally

• opportunity for college credit and future degrees.

For the United States economy, benefits include:

• a highly skilled workforce

• an increased competitive edge in the global economy

• a system to contribute to and sustain economic growth.


Apprenticeship Building in Newport News

Read about Newport News Shipbuilding Apprentice School in a case study highlighted in ATD's whitepaper Bridging the Skills Gap: Workforce Development Is Everyone's Business.


The Apprentice School uses a competency-based model that includes on-the-job training, related academic instruction, and opportunities to participate in extracurricular activities. All apprentices are employees of Newport News Shipbuilding from day one, working a 40-hour week that includes on-the-job training and related academic instruction. Apprentices are paid for all work, including time spent in related academic classes. Apprentices earn $17.34 an hour when they begin and receive pay increases throughout their apprenticeship. Apprentices also receive traditional benefits including health insurance, vacation, paid holidays, and more.

The Apprentice School’s on-the-job training approach utilizes craft instructors, all of whom are graduates of the school, to help apprentices develop the craftsmanship and core leadership principles necessary for a successful shipbuilding career. Specifically, craft instructors ensure apprentices receive the appropriate training, document apprentices’ skill development, and provide apprentices with regular, value-added evaluations. Craft instructors also deliver a trade-related education curriculum that provides apprentices with the knowledge and skills needed to support their on-the-job training and success.

The related academic instruction apprentices receive, delivered by the school’s academic faculty and partnering institutions, prepares apprentices for work in their respective shipbuilding disciplines, continuing their education in one of the school’s advanced programs and furthering their education beyond apprenticeship. Through partnerships with Thomas Nelson Community College, Tidewater Community College, and Old Dominion University, the Apprentice School provides apprentices with opportunities to earn associate degrees in business administration, engineering, engineering technology, and technical studies, and bachelor’s degrees in mechanical or electrical engineering and modeling and simulation. The school also maintains articulation agreements with several other colleges and universities.

Apprentices become leaders on the job, in the classroom, and by participating in extracurricular activities—specifically, focusing on the Apprentice School’s leadership principles: commitment, improvement, respect, teamwork, empowerment, communication, planning, and decision making. Graduates of the school are well prepared to continue Newport News Shipbuilding’s long-standing tradition of building, overhauling, and maintaining the most complex and powerful naval vessels in the world.

Read more about Registered Apprenticeship by visiting the United States Department of Labor and Jobs for the Future apprenticeship pages, following #moreapprenticeships and #Apprenticeshipworks on LinkedIn and Twitter, and reading the featured article Offshore No More in the December 2017 issue of TD magazine.

This article was written by members of ATD’s Public Policy Advisory Group:

Nancy Harvin
Training Department Manager
Newport News Shipbuilding, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries

Cristina Masucci, CPLP
Senior Instructional Designer, Blended Learning
Learning and Performance
Sodexo, NorAm

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