Berks Career and Technology Center: Apprenticeship Training Programs

Posted on Categories Promising Practices in Adult CTE, Special Populations

At a Glance

Berks Career and Technology Center’s Adult/Continuing Education department  provides apprenticeship theory training in HVAC, Electrical, Plumbing and Industrial Maintenance. The apprenticeship programs follow a structured, formalized method of training that combines classroom theory with on-the-job practical hands-on experience.

Description

For over 25 years, Berks Career and Technology Center (BCTC) has provided these four apprenticeship programs to address the concerns of local employers who need a well-educated workforce. The primary goal of the programs is to prepare apprentices to sit for the City of Reading’s Journeyman’s License exam.

The Berks Career and Technology Center 2020-2021 Continuing Education Evening Program Guide explains the responsibilities assumed by private employers and BCTC in providing the apprenticeships.

Apprenticeship programs are developed by private industry employers who sponsor their employees. Apprenticeships offer an excellent opportunity to advance in a chosen career. Berks Career and Technology’s role in registered apprenticeship programs is to provide the classroom training for employers that have an approved registered apprenticeship program with the state of Pennsylvania.”

The Electrical, Plumbing and Industrial Maintenance Apprenticeship programs are 4-year programs while the HVAC Apprenticeship program is a 3-year program. For each apprenticeship program, the apprentice is required to work at least 2,000 hours (full-time job) in the field and attend BCTC two nights a week from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. for theory training.  The employer documents the training hours in the state RAPIDS system. There is an annual tuition cost related to each apprenticeship program which covers the instructor salaries, program management and includes a profit margin target.

When the apprenticeship programs were first being developed, the BCTC Evening Coordinator collaborated with private employers who are registered with the state of Pennsylvania to develop the program curriculum and to ensure each program aligned with their needs and state requirements. Over the last 25 years, the programs have changed and grown to align with new technologies and employer needs. The key to growth is to target local employers that are registered with the state and that need employee apprenticeship training.

BCTC encountered some minor challenges in its efforts to develop and sustain the apprenticeship programs. One of the early challenges to be addressed focused on helping students fully understand the work, class and attendance requirements of the program. To help clarify these, BCTC created a student handbook designed specifically for the evening programs. The handbook provides an overview of program policies and requirements, such as attendance.  BCTC conducts a Welcome/Orientation session on the first day of class to go over the handbook with students.

Recruiting instructors is an ongoing challenge for the programs. Potential instructors often make more money out in the field than in the classroom, and they must be available to work evenings. Kim DeHart, the Continuing Education Administrator at BCTC, finds that participating instructors usually have a passion for passing on their knowledge to others.

For career and technology centers looking to implement apprenticeship programs like BCTC has done, Ms. DeHart offers some suggestions. Start slowly, perhaps with one program at a time. It can be overwhelming to try pulling together multiple apprenticeship programs at the same time due to all the moving parts. Hiring the needed staff, like instructors, and organizing the program components takes time. Focusing on one program allows for a more streamlined launch and the ability to quickly address any issues as they arise.

As a CTC develops apprenticeship programs, the program coordinator should focus on developing collaborative relationships with employers and with instructors. Strong working relationships with both stakeholder groups help programs to run smoothly and keep everyone on the same page in terms of program goals, expectations and policies.

Moving forward, BCTC’s ultimate goal is to become the sponsor.  It currently is in the process of becoming registered with the state so that it can access state funding that is currently not available to it. As a registered sponsor, BCTC will be able to assist smaller companies that do not have the resources to perform the required tracking in the RAPIDS system.

Impact

The apprenticeship programs provide apprentices with career-specific knowledge, training and skills and the opportunity to become a Journeyman in their trade, which also increases their income and job opportunities.

As the enrollment numbers indicate, participation in the apprenticeship programs is steady from year-to-year.

Table 1. Total Number of Participants in
BCTC’s Apprenticeship Programs, 2015 – 2020

School Year Number of Participants in
All Apprenticeship Programs
2015-2016 101
2016-2017 94
2017-2018 107
2018-2019 100
2019-2020 106

Contact

Berks Career and Technology Center
https://www.berkscareer.com/

Kathy Benyak, Continuing Education Program Coordinator – Evenings
kjbenyak@berkscareer.com

Kim DeHart, CE Administrator
kddehart@berkscareer.com