Any South Carolina employer, including a government agency, is eligible to sponsor an apprenticeship program and register it. Employers may sponsor a program individually, or they may collaborate with other employers with similar training needs. Programs also may be sponsored by a professional or trade association, a joint apprenticeship training committee, or a Small Business Development center on behalf of a consortium of employers.
A registered apprenticeship is an employer-sponsored job related education program that cultivates highly skilled workers who meet the workforce demands of a competitive global economy. A registered apprenticeship consists of two complementary components:
A registered apprenticeship program is sponsored by an employer to meet broad industry standards. It is designed to create a career pathway for an employee to graduate from a lower skill level to the full performance level in a given occupation. Programs can range in length from one to six years as determined by the length of training that is common in the given occupation and the individual employer’s needs. Specific training content is determined by employers within recommended guidelines, and an employer has the discretion to award advanced standing to apprentices who enter a program with demonstrated skills.
Registered apprenticeship programs also include a “scalable” wage component by which an employee receives incremental wage increases as he or she demonstrates the attainment of new competencies throughout the training program. This provides an incentive for the employee to complete the program. It also provides a cost offset for an employer investing in employees who will not immediately be performing at full productivity, as well as a retention tool for employers who are investing in their employee training. This wage and its progressive increments are determined by the employer, not a state or federal agency. An apprentice cannot start at less than the federal or state minimum wage.
A program “registered” with the US Department of Labor (USDOL) shows an employer’s visible commitment to developing a high-quality workforce that meets nationally recognized training standards. The roles and responsibilities of both the employer and the employee are laid out in a written document (called the “Apprenticeship Standards”) and the curriculum for the training program is clearly delineated for both parties (through the “Training Schedule”). An apprenticeship program that is registered with USDOL awards a nationally-recognized credential to both the employer and the employee. In South Carolina, employers with registered apprenticeship programs are also eligible to receive a tax credit of $1,000 for each registered apprentice employed for at least 7 months during each year of his or her apprenticeship program, for up to four years.
The only requirements pertaining to apprentices entering a registered apprenticeship program are that they must be at least 16 years of age. Registered apprentices must be selected without regard to gender, race, age, sexual orientation or religious affiliation—just like any other employee. Any other selection criteria is determined by the employer or group of employers sponsoring the program based upon the specific requirements of their industry.
Typically, registered apprentices will need to demonstrate that they have an aptitude and ability for the given occupation, that they meet any minimum educational requirements for a given program, and that they fulfill any health and safety requirements for an occupation. Some employers choose to integrate the use of assessment tools such as WorkKeys into their selection process. Qualification criteria must be objective.
There are currently over 950 occupations for which registered apprenticeship programs have been established across the nation. These occupations span a broad range of industry clusters and demonstrate the power of the registered apprenticeship model to build a 21st century workforce. Careers that are currently recognized include those from traditional trades such as electricians and plumbers, but also encompass occupations in other fields such as child care, telecommunications, hospitality and health care.
Yes. The list of occupations eligible for registered apprenticeships is regularly updated as employers express a need for the addition of new career paths and provide models for success. Your Apprenticeship Consultant will be able to advise you on this issue, but the general guidelines for determining if an occupation is eligible are:
No. A registered apprenticeship program does not dictate the wage that you pay an employee. The only federal requirement is that you not pay an employee an amount below the federal minimum wage at any time during their registered apprenticeship. In setting the incremental wage progression, the employer determines what the appropriate wage would be for a person at the full performance level and then sets a percentage below that amount as the entering wage for a new registered apprentice. The employer then determines appropriate benchmarks for increasing the wage as an employee advances in the program.
An employer will identify the appropriate benchmarks for these increases—they may be every four months, every six months, once each year, or another arrangement that is appropriate to the usual method of skills attainment in a given occupation. The schedule of the wage progression is laid out in the Apprenticeship Standards so that both the employer and the employee understand this arrangement and the timing of the increases when entering the training agreement.
Eligible South Carolina businesses who sponsor a registered apprenticeship program can receive a $1,000 direct tax credit for each registered apprentice employed for at least seven months during each year of apprenticeship for up to four years. The tax credit is intended to offset the direct and indirect costs of establishing the registered apprenticeship program. Costs may include course design and development, instructional costs, training material and supplies, maintaining records and administering the program. You can view a copy of the South Carolina tax form for the apprenticeship tax credit here.
There are essentially three types of documents that are required for a registered apprenticeship program. Some of these are one-time “up front” documents and others are maintained on an ongoing basis.
Yes. Registered apprenticeship is a model that works for both small and large employers. An employer can set up a program with only one registered apprentice and build its program around those specific training needs. Many smaller companies find it beneficial to collaborate with other local employers with similar training needs. This can be particularly useful in delivering the related technical instruction component of a program.
No. A registered apprenticeship program will typically begin with an employer-determined probationary period during which either the sponsor or the registered apprentice may terminate the agreement for any reason. After the probationary period, either party can still terminate the agreement, though USDOL requests to be informed of the reason for separation only as a tool for seeking to improve the effectiveness of the registered apprenticeship model. There is nothing within a registered apprenticeship program that conflicts with your employer rights in a right-to-work state such as South Carolina.
No. There is no cost for the services provided by either Apprenticeship Carolina or the South Carolina State Office of the USDOL Office of Apprenticeship.
You can contact an Apprenticeship Consultant through Apprenticeship Carolina or you can contact the South Carolina Office of the US Department of Labor’s Office of Apprenticeship. Your Consultant will provide you with guidance throughout the process of setting up your registered apprenticeship program; however, it may be helpful for you to begin thinking about some key issues to ensure that the program is customized to best meet your training needs. Your Consultant will ask you to provide input with the following steps of the start-up process: