OFCCP encourages all contractors to sponsor apprenticeship programs. The following frequently asked questions (FAQs) are provided to assist contractors in understanding how sponsoring apprenticeship programs can benefit both contractors and employees and how apprenticeship programs can support contractors’ efforts to promote equal employment opportunity.
- What is apprenticeship?
- Why should a contractor consider implementing an apprenticeship program?
- Is the contractor required to include a description of its apprenticeship program in its affirmative action program (AAP)?
- How could a contractor utilize an apprenticeship program to help meet its obligations for individuals with disabilities and/or protected veterans?
- If individuals are in an apprenticeship program are they considered "employees" of the contractor that must be included in the contractor’s AAP?
- What are some best practices regarding apprenticeship programs that can assist a contractor in complying with its equal employment opportunity and affirmative action obligations?
What is apprenticeship?
Apprenticeship is an industry-driven, high-quality career pathway where employers can develop and prepare their future workforce, and individuals can obtain paid work experience, classroom instruction, mentorship, and a portable, nationally-recognized credential. For more information please visit www.apprenticeship.gov/.
Why should a contractor consider implementing an apprenticeship program?
Well‐designed and appropriately executed apprenticeship programs provide employers and employees multiple benefits. First and foremost, apprenticeship programs provide employees with requisite skills to serve in their chosen industry and provide their employers with a highly skilled workforce. These programs can also greatly increase retention of employees and lower various costs such as training. Federal contractors can also use apprenticeship programs as an additional avenue to increase outreach and recruitment efforts, thus expanding applicant pools toward the goal of compliance with equal employment opportunity obligations.
Is the contractor required to include a description of its apprenticeship program in its affirmative action program (AAP)?
No, it is not required that a contractor describe all aspects of its apprenticeship program in its AAP. However, as part of its AAP obligations under Executive Order 11246, the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA), and Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 503), a contractor must develop and implement an internal auditing system that measures the effectiveness of its affirmative action program. Because an apprenticeship program may impact hiring, promotions, retention, or other employment actions, the AAP should describe the apprenticeship program’s impact on these employment actions. For example, a description of an apprenticeship program designed to correct problem areas and meet Executive Order 11246 AAP goals, such as one to increase eligibility for promotion opportunities for females and minorities, should be noted in the AAP. In this example, as a part of its data analysis under the AAP, the contractor would assess for any increase or decrease in the number of promotions, by race/ethnicity and sex, and examine the effectiveness of the apprenticeship program. Additionally, if a contractor pursues a Registered Apprenticeship program, please be aware that such programs have separate, but similar affirmative-action obligations, described at 29 CFR Part 30.
How could a contractor utilize an apprenticeship program to help meet its obligations for individuals with disabilities and/or protected veterans?
One of the primary components of AAPs under both Section 503 and VEVRAA is measuring the effectiveness of outreach and recruitment efforts. OFCCP encourages contractors to consider whether an apprenticeship program would be an effective method to recruit and train individuals with disabilities or veterans. Contractors subject to Section 503 and VEVRAA requirements must ensure that individuals with disabilities and protected veterans are offered equal opportunity to participate in apprenticeship programs and other educational or developmental options as any other applicant or employee. Additionally, if a contractor pursues a Registered Apprenticeship program, please be aware that such programs have separate, but similar disability equal employment opportunity obligations, described at 29 CFR Part 30.
If individuals are in an apprenticeship program are they considered "employees" of the contractor that must be included in the contractor’s AAP?
Generally, yes. A contractor must include all of its employees who worked at the establishment during the AAP’s term (for example, calendar year or fiscal year) in the AAP. Employees include full-time, part-time, temporary, and permanent workers, and may include workers in training and apprenticeship programs. However, an employment relationship with the contractor may not exist where another entity sponsors or directs the apprenticeship program; legally, this determination is made on a case-by-case basis. In contrast, individuals that participate in an apprenticeship program administered by the contractor and meet the legal definition of an employee are part of the contractor’s workforce and must be included in the AAP. For further guidance on how OFCCP determines whether an employment relationship exists, see Employer‐Employee (Darden) FAQs at www.dol.gov/agencies/ofccp/faqs/employee-relationship.
What are some best practices regarding apprenticeship programs that can assist a contractor in complying with its equal employment opportunity and affirmative action obligations?
Best practices to ensure apprenticeship programs are effective and help contractors voluntarily achieve compliance include, among other actions, the following:
- Informing applicants and employees of any and all apprenticeship opportunities. This may be done using existing systems for notices and routine distribution of information to applicants and/or employees.
- Developing recruitment and outreach efforts for the apprenticeship program that will reach a diverse pool of candidates.
- Implementing mentorship and support programs, as companions to the apprenticeship program, designed to increase retention of employees and provide ongoing skill development.
- Providing support and incentives during the apprenticeship program to increase the likelihood of candidates completing the program. For example, contractors may offer monetary incentives, such as stipends, child care programs, flexible schedules, paid travel expenses, etc.
- Taking affirmative steps to keep the workplace free from harassment, intimidation, and retaliation, which includes anti-harassment training and maintaining procedures for handling and resolving complaints. Such steps can include anti-harassment training, which is a requirement of Registered Apprenticeships under 29 CFR Part 30.
- Assigning responsibility to an individual to oversee equal employment opportunity efforts and adhere to all Federal, state, and local laws and regulations.
- Partnering with federal, state and other industry-recognized certification programs to provide mentors, trainers, industry-specific standards, etc. for those programs.
- Committing to hiring candidates upon successful completion of the certification program.
- Examining the effectiveness of your apprenticeship program on a routine basis, and making changes in the program(s), as warranted, to ensure that the program is contributing towards the development of a skilled and diverse workforce.