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Apprenticeship: Return on investment

Workforce development is at the core of every business. As an employer, you’ve likely seen hundreds, if not thousands, of faces pass through your doors over the years. Though some employees may become your next leaders, many leave after a short time, creating a hole to fill in your labor force. The common denominator with these employees is that they cost money and resources to train and develop, and when they leave your company to work elsewhere—maybe even for a competitor—that investment walks out the door with them.

Because apprentices are key to filling the skills gap left by departing employees and are more likely to remain working for the employer sponsoring their training, apprenticeship might be the answer to increasing your return on investment.

According to a 2018 industry report in Training Magazine, companies spend an average of nearly $1,000 per employee on training. Businesses in the free market must ensure each one of those dollars is being spent effectively. Apprenticeship programs decrease employee turnover and mold productive workers with a greater penchant for on-the-job critical thinking, as evidenced by a 2016 study conducted by Case Western Reserve University and the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The study closely followed apprenticeship programs and measured the impacts those programs had on employers. There were two standout programs in this study: A medical assistant apprenticeship at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center that nearly paid for itself within a year, in part by reducing training costs, overtime wages and turnover; and a machinist apprenticeship at Siemens USA that realized a 50% return on investment compared to the hiring of traditional workers off the street. Siemens USA also reported that apprentices were more productive and better suited for projects that required independent decision-making.

As you can see, return on investment and apprenticeship go hand-in-hand. An extensive 2018 report conducted by the National Apprenticeship Service in the United Kingdom supports that conclusion, too. The agency interviewed more than 4,000 businesses that employed apprentices in 2015 and 2016. Roughly three out of every four respondents stated that their apprentices improved company productivity, the quality of products or services, retention and staff morale. In addition, more than two-thirds of employers concluded that apprentices helped improve the company’s image in the sector, and nearly a quarter of consumers, according to the survey, were willing to pay more for products from a business that employs apprentices.

Looking for the best method to produce quality workers, instill loyalty in your employees and increase your return on workforce investment? There is no need to reinvent the wheel. Professions across the world have utilized the apprenticeship model since the middle ages, and Wisconsin has been a leader in the field since 1911.

If you think apprenticeship might be a good fit for you, find more about Wisconsin Apprenticeship and how to get started by going to

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Karen Morgan is the director of the Wisconsin Bureau of Apprenticeship Standards in the Department of Workforce Development.

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