Are Your Apprentices Registered with the DOL?

A U.S. Department of Labor presentation about registered apprenticeships spurred discussion among Chicago AMBA members about the need for more effective ways to boost representation in order to boost interest in moldmaking as a career.


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If you don’t register your apprentices, why not? There has been discussion about this among members of the American Mold Builders Association (AMBA) Chicago Chapter. Several of the members feel strongly that having apprentices accounted for in the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) records would help boost visibility and lend credibility to the moldmaking profession for those looking to pursue a career in a skilled trade. “We need to register our companies and our apprentices so that we have an authentic showing of apprentice interest on the DOL’s website,” Francine Petrucci of B A Die Mold Inc. in Aurora, Illinois, says. “Right now, for Illinois, there are only nine apprentices registered under ‘moldmaker,’ and only about 250 active moldmaking apprentices registered nationally. This is grossly understated.” Petrucci says if young students or their parents were to do some research on viable manufacturing apprenticeships and found what is currently on the DOL site, they would find that statistic very discouraging. “They probably would encourage their children to go into the building trades, for example, where hundreds of apprentices are registered and accounted for,” she says.

The Chicago AMBA invited Marlene Budge, Apprenticeship & Training Representative, and Ronda Kliman, Apprenticeship & Training Program Specialist, from the DOL to speak at a recent dinner meeting and provide information about how to get more apprentices registered. What they learned is that there are five core components that make up a successful registered apprenticeship under the DOL’s ApprenticeshipUSA program:

  1. Employer involvement. Employers are the foundation – providing the input and guidance needed to build the apprentice program.
  2. Apprentices must receive structured on-the-job learning from an experienced mentor/trainer
  3. Related instruction/training that complements the on-the-job training
  4. Rewards for skills gained. Apprentices receive increases in wages as they gain higher-level skills
  5. National Occupational Credential. Registered apprenticeship programs result in a nationally-recognized credential, which tells prospective employers that the apprentice has learned the needed skill sets.

While employer involvement in on-the-job training is the one non-negotiable part of the ApprenticeshipUSA model, the registered apprenticeship is adaptable and flexible, meaning it can be designed by the employer to fit specific needs. “If we have a need for an underwater basket weaver, for example, we can develop an apprenticeship program for that profession, as long as we include hands on training, combined with X hours of course curriculum over Y years (per DOL requirements),” Mike Walter of Met2Plastic says. “My understanding is that the DOL provides guidance, but we would have to come up with the curriculum. I suppose that means more work for us, but it also allows us to have control over it.”

Budge and Kliman explained that the registered apprenticeship is a time-tested model, proven to successfully recruit, train and retain skilled workers. It provides a proven pathway to higher-paid, skilled careers, apprentices earn while they learn, and they receive credentials and potential to earn college credit. For employers, some compelling benefits:

  • Develop highly-skilled workers through a flexible, customized training approach
  • DOL Support with recruitment
  • Reduced turnover and improved retention
  • Establish a pipeline of new apprentices with skills to train the next generation
  • Financial resources in the way of grants and other funding.

“I heard that the government—the DOL—is here to help us, and how important it is for every company to register each apprentice. A high head count creates funding, and funding can be applied to the much-needed programs. All good,” Chuck Klingler of Janler Corp. in Chicago, and current Chicago AMBA president, says. “I think the speakers did a fine job of displaying what the DOL can provide, but our audience was looking for something more. There is much frustration from our members about the lack of standard training available, from a ‘standard source,’ like the Tool and Die Institute (now the Technology and Manufacturing Association) once offered to our trade. But the DOL does not offer training. It approves the training process.” He adds that members are frustrated about the lack of interest from parents and young people about entering the manufacturing arena versus attending college. “Admittedly, that is not really a DOL issue, but it is a government issue, and an industry marketing issue,” he says.

The Chicago AMBA has made it a goal to get apprentice programs at Chicago shops registered and get their apprentices registered and then go nationwide with the effort to help promote moldmaking as a career. Learn more about how to register your company’s apprenticeship program on the DOL website, including a quick-start toolkit.