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New Effort Adds College Credit To Apprenticeship Programs

Published Sunday, September 19, 2021
by Rebecca Koenig/
New Effort Adds College Credit To Apprenticeship Programs

The journey toward a career often starts at a fork in the road.

One path points toward on-the-job training.

The other takes a detour through college.

They have different benefits and barriers, but both can seem like one-way streets - no U-turns allowed.

Now, a pilot partnership among colleges, companies and the American Council on Education aims to help people pursue both paths.

The Apprenticeship Pathways Project takes Apprenticeships - experiences that companies design that pay people wages to learn while they work - and translates them into free college credits.

For example, someone who completes a one-year Apprenticeship with IBM in software engineering not only sets the foundation for a career at the company, but also will be able to earn up to 45 college credits for that experience, giving her about a three-semester head start on earning an Associate or Bachelor’s Degree.

“This really is a bridge that helps a candidate - a learner, an Apprentice - achieve both outcomes,” says Kelli Jordan, who serves as Director of IBM Career, Skills and Performance. “It keeps people’s options open and helps them continue to build skills whenever they want to over the course of their lifetime.”

Apprenticeships have long been a mainstay for hiring people into Skilled Trades, but they’ve lately gained some momentum as a way to train people for office work, too, including for information technology positions that are in high demand.

Because employers pay for the training and offer wages, these opportunities are more affordable for job seekers than programs that charge tuition.

Yet, as the skills and credentials required for good employment opportunities change over time, some Workers without a college degree find that they would benefit from having one.

Others aspire to earn a diploma for personal reasons.

“Slowly but surely, individual Workers are starting to realize, if their chosen pathway or life circumstances leads them to have to work on the front end, they have to combine that with getting their learning documented,” says Louis Soares, Chief Learning and Innovation Officer at the American Council on Education. “Figuring out how to make that manageable for more Workers is part of our collective challenge.”

It’s one that the Federal Government has started to tackle.

Many Apprenticeships are registered with the U.S. Department of Labor, which helps these training programs collaborate with higher education to award credits through the Registered Apprenticeship-College Consortium.

Congress is considering a Bill called the Apprenticeships to College Act that would strengthen the network.

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