Apprenticeship Stakeholders Adjust to a Post-COVID-19 Reality

Apprenticeship program duties became significantly more challenging under limitations from the COVID-19 pandemic. Speakers Thomas Fischer, Jennifer E. Germaine, Esq., and Thomas E. Pfundstein, Ph.D., addressed these challenges in a recent International Foundation webcast titled Apprenticeship Program Challenges During COVID-19. The webcast addressed these unique challenges as well as changes made, program survival strategies, technical considerations, instructor techniques, legal and equity considerations, and notes for the eventual reopening of training centers. Below are some webcast takeaways for apprenticeship program instructors, directors and coordinators.

Apprenticeship Stakeholders Adjust to a Post-COVID-19 Reality

Changes Made

Stakeholders immediately recognized the need to continue apprenticeship instruction after training centers shut down. Some key first steps included:

  • Meeting online with program instructors to determine best practices
  • Ensuring that current technological capabilities would suffice under expanded use
  • Determining which classes were better suited for live training and which could be delivered online
  • Getting approval from government and industry regulating bodies to deliver instruction under new, electronic methods.
Preparing Your Organization for the Next Crisis

Survival Strategies

The rapid implementation of new processes gave programs a true test of their survival skills. Some of the lessons learned include the following.

  • Some programs were able to accelerate the speed of their online learning components, allowing programs to focus more time on the hands-on portion of training.
  • Program staff determined which practices are viable only in the short-term, while also implementing some permanently into standard practices.
  • Stakeholders were able to assess their staff in a time of crisis in a high-pressure environment. This became a great test of who will meet challenges going forward.
  • Some presenters were wary about hybrid online/face-to-face learning strategies. However, many apprentices used these strategies in recent high school courses. This new method more closely aligned to apprentice leaning styles.
  • In a new virtual environment, instructors realized the increasing importance of face-to-face feedback through live video components.

Technology Considerations

In this new environment, innovative technological considerations are necessary. Here are some techniques that programs are using to deal with this new reality.

  • Stakeholders evaluate their need and, if applicable, create/enhance their learning management systems
  • Programs are increasingly using and Skype and Zoom. Instructors and apprentices are comfortable with these platforms as their primary communication method with family members. Programs are also posting training videos on YouTube.
  • Programs are also exploring the use of mobile apps to ensure that apprentices are in attendance and engaged. In addition, some are using designated staff monitors to ensure attendance and engagement while establishing a clear list of expectations for online learning environments

[New Report: Top Trends in Apprenticeship Programs: 2020 Survey Report]

Instructor Techniques

New realities have forced instructors to modify their instruction styles. Below are some valuable tips for this new environment.

  • In select programs, apprentices are completing their final presentations through electronic methods. Instructors need to be versed in technical support, which may entail a drastic shift in responsibility.
  • Another program hosted software-specific (Zoom, Skype, Google Hangout) training for instructors and apprentices, placing an emphasis on supplementing instruction through technology.
  • Before meetings, instructors are conducting “walk-throughs” to ensure a more seamless experience for apprentices.
  • Instructors found success by limiting instruction time to two to three hours per session to ensure engagement and participation.
  • One of the speakers hosts an “instructor lounge” for instructors to relay resources and best practices.

Legal Issues of Remote Instruction

Distance learning strategies have necessitated a host of new legal considerations. Below are some potential legal obstacles, with corresponding action steps.

Instruction Quality

Legal Framework to Consider: Federal Registered Apprenticeship Standards (29 U.S.C. Sec. 50), state requirements and specific program standards

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Action Steps:

  • Review program standards
  • Develop remote instruction that builds off existing standards
  • Amend program standards and apprenticeship policies

Identity Verification

Action Steps:

  • Consider apprentice identity verification
  • Educate instructors on requirements
  • Scrutinize remote instruction products before purchasing


Legal Framework to Consider: Copyright Act of 1976 and Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization Act of 2002

Action Steps:

  • Understand best practices
  • Educate instructors
  • Create copyright policy with apprentices

Best Practices:

  • Link directly to material
  • Only use necessary portions of material
  • Limit access
  • Inform apprentices and instructors of policy

Apprentice Data Privacy

Legal Framework to Consider: Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (Protects directory information, personally identifiable information)

Action Steps

  • Review current tech contracts
  • Review proposed tech contracts diligently—Ensure program owns data
  • Consult legal counsel
  • Inform apprentices of privacy protections

Disability Accommodation

Legal Framework to Consider: Americans with Disabilities Act

Actions Steps:

  • Anticipate potential accommodations—Consider implementing remote instruction
  • Create process for apprentices to request accommodations
  • Educate instructors on viable accommodations
  • Discuss tools with tech providers to provide accommodations

Equity Considerations

Remote instruction in the apprenticeship training environment has raised a new round of potential equity concerns. Presenters gave a few examples of methods to address potential inequity.

  • Apprentices may not all have access to laptops or tablets for training. Consider a loaner program where apprentices can borrow these devices for training. Going further, examine making courses smartphone friendly.
  • In addition, not all apprentices may have a distraction-free area at home to complete coursework. Consider opening isolated areas at your training center to apprentices at socially distanced spacing.
  • Similarly, not all apprentices may be available at standard nine-to-five classroom times. Consider offering classes at alternate times to accommodate different types of learners and varying schedules.

[Upcoming Webcast: Supporting Employees With Social Isolation and Post-Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI) | July 15, 2020]

Next Steps: Training Centers Reopening

The next step of the COVID-19 time line is the potential reopening of training centers. Speakers provided several considerations for this new reality, including the following.

  • Check state and local guidance to determine whether your training center is operating as an essential business. Different rules and regulations will apply.
  • Conduct a thorough evaluation of all training center common areas. What is the capacity of your cafeteria? Will you allow apprentices to bring outside food? Does your training center have a shower area for apprentices? Will these be operational?
  • If possible, consider a condensed on-site training schedule (e.g., two days on, three days off) to allow for thorough cleaning and to reduce the spread among apprentices.
  • Consider creating COVID-19 specific “welcome back” resources for apprentices returning to the training center.

Learn More

Tune in to the on-demand webcast Apprenticeship Program Challenges During COVID-19 to learn more.

Visit the International Foundation Apprenticeship Resources page to find the latest apprenticeship news, reports, government resources and the helpful Apprenticeship Program Answer Guide.

Justin Held, CEBS
Senior Research Analyst at the International Foundation 

The latest from Word on Benefits:

Justin Held, CEBS

Senior Research Analyst at the International Foundation

Favorite Foundation Service: Foundation Research Surveys


Benefits Related Topics That Interest Him Most: Behavioral economics, socially responsible investing, apprenticeship training


Personal Insight: Justin loves everything baseball, visiting and checking off ballparks as he travels. In this free time, he enjoys hiking at national parks, cycling and reading about U.S. history.

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