person using vr headset to learn

How technology is powering the next generation of apprenticeships

Workforce Development

How technology is powering the next generation of apprenticeships.  

By: Cameron Avrigean & Lou Camerlengo | July 13th, 2020

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From the blacksmiths of the late Middle Ages to modern programs designed to fill IT positions, the apprenticeship model has helped train and employ people for centuries. The number of yearly new apprentices in the United States has doubled since 2008 and shows no signs of slowing down, but it isn’t enough to fill projected job needs over the next ten years. The fact of the matter is, jobs are being created for which training programs do not exist– in fact, we’re going to have millions of them. This blog highlights three technological innovations which have the potential to accelerate the next generation of apprenticeships ability to address key skills gaps.

Going Virtual

COVID has forced millions of people to quickly adapt and embrace the virtual workplace. Major apprenticeship programs have had to follow suit, offering more accessible and equitable apprenticeship programs which are not  tied to physical locations. We’ve already established the need for expanding apprenticeships in an earlier blog. Adding remote learning to apprenticeships programs is the next step as it brings the apprenticeship environment online, allowing for increased access and larger cohorts. The Independent Electrical Contractors Rocky Mountain already offers a fully online electrical apprentice program.

Apprenti.org is currently running a program of nearly 1000 tech apprentices, fully online. Today – our workforce needs innovative tools and programs that transform delivery by embracing opportunities for virtual learning and training. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are two of the most disruptive and talked about immersive learning technologies in the past decade and are perfectly suited for this task.

The value of AR and VR is already being proven in small and medium businesses across the country. According to Capterra – 1 in 3 small manufacturing businesses in the U.S. will be piloting a VR training program for new hires. These new hires are expected to reach full productivity 50% faster. Apprenticeship programs that embrace this technology can effectively train workers remotely and more effectively. Employee training and apprenticeships aren’t an apples-to-apples comparison, however, – as much of the training done with AR/VR isn’t as immersive or hands on as many apprenticeships. There are other industries taking the plunge though – healthcare, specifically surgeons have begun to use AR/VR as a part of pilot training programs to great effect across the country. According to a study conducted by the Western Orthopedic Association Medical students who were given VR training for the procedure completed it 20% faster and completed 38% more steps correctly than those in the traditionally trained group. Proven value in high-stakes situations will continue to strengthen the case for AR/VR as training tools regardless of the situation.

person using vr headset to learn

Building Awareness

Many Americans have a limited view of apprenticeships, most often associating them with careers in the trades. Though valuable and fulfilling careers, there is a much wider set of options, so building awareness across all industries is critical to building the nation’s workforce.  In California – $6 million of their $200 million vocational education budget was dedicated towards building awareness for modern apprenticeship programs and transforming how the programs are perceived. Modern apprenticeships look entirely different, but there is a serious lack of awareness of apprenticeships as an effective, modern career path for students and as a means of helping adults' transition into new careers.

Community colleges have been at the forefront of modernizing apprenticeships, but even highly successful programs still have an awareness problem. A recent study by Accenture showed that just 8% of community college students have participated in an apprenticeship program, and that 58% of students weren’t even aware it is an option.

one person training another while looking at laptop

But how can technology help address an awareness problem?

Traditional apprenticeships have a very specific timeline for completion. Modern apprenticeships aren’t bound to this constraint. IRAPS (Industry Recognized Apprenticeship Programs) allow for completion to be based on assessment of skills and competencies learned, without a required time constraint.  Trade and industry groups, corporations, non-profits, educational institutions, unions, and joint labor-management organizations can now create apprenticeships that serve clear needs in the workforce. These programs will elevate the profile of the modern apprenticeship and get more organizations involved in the process.

IRAPS allow organizations to create programs that deliver highly qualified candidates with relevant, on the job experience. With tech industry giants like IBM, Cerner, and Cisco as high-profile participants in the IRAPS program, it’s clear that apprenticeships can address previously unfilled needs in the next generation of tech positions.

Building awareness is critical to the success of apprenticeship programs – they need to be as visible as traditional higher education programs. Technology can help with innovative platforms that connect workers with apprenticeships.  Here’s what we’ve been working on lately.

group of adults learnig from a presentation

Smarter Learning Management

Businesses and education institutions have been using Learning Management Systems (LMS) to distribute and track training and education plans for twenty years. Driven by huge surges in eLearning popularity, learning management systems have become a mainstay for training across most industries. In fact – education only constitutes 21% of LMS users according to Capterra research, with tech, manufacturing, healthcare, and consulting industries taking up the majority.

man looking at laptop

As learning management systems get modernized, they offer clear benefits for apprenticeship programs and can help overcome some of the most notable barriers to program participation and efficacy, including personalization of content, increased interactivity, better data for enhanced reporting and decision making, and increased flexibility in delivery, and personalization.

LMSs can deliver a personalized sequence of content and assessments to help students and workers learn new skills and subjects. Personalization is one of the most important advancements across all technology, and LMSs have embraced personalization as a core function – improving the overall learning experience.

here's how: 


By adding in gamification and making distance learning social, the key benefits of in-person instruction aren’t lost as enagement Increases. Gamification has been shown to increase engagement as much as 60%. 


LMSs are uniquely poised to take in data from these interactive, personalized learning plans. This data can be used to assess what’s working and what they need to improve. While we’re trying to address complex problems like the skills gap quickly and efficiently, the data from learning management systems can help optimize the way apprentices are trained.


LMS-based courses enable apprentices to access training on their own schedule and pace. The flexibility offered by a learn-as-you-go approach opens apprenticeship programs to an entirely new audience who previously couldn’t make consistent room in their schedule to pursue new opportunities.

By leveraging recent developments in LMS technology, we can bring new value to apprentices and improve the experience from sign-up to program completion. 

To address the needs of the future - we need to innovate now.

The skills gap has already drawn attention to the fact that economy is creating jobs that don’t have direct links to existing education programs. Apprenticeships allow workers to fill these gaps quickly and effectively. Increased need requires increased innovation – these are just three of the areas where technology is already making impacts and is poised to make even larger ones.


About the Author: Cameron Avrigean

Cameron Avrigean is a Marketing Coordinator at fivestar*. Cameron is an analytics fanatic with a penchant for copywriting and social media. He works with the marketing team to create engaging content, and is looking for the next big thing. Cameron holds a B.S. in Business Management from Point Park University.

About the Author: Lou Camerlengo

As fivestar*s President, Lou seems to effortlessly drive company performance and lead business development and client retention efforts. He is involved in higher education and workforce projects and serves on multiple non-profit boards.


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