Award-winning NTCA Five-Star Contractor J&R Tile of San Antonio, Texas was recently approved and recognized as an Apprenticeship Ambassador by the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Office of Apprenticeship (OA). The Apprenticeship Ambassador initiative is “designed to create a national network of employers, labor organizations, industry associations, program sponsors, educators, workforce intermediaries, community-based organizations, and other stakeholders to serve as champions for expanding and diversifying Registered Apprenticeship,” according to application materials for the honor.
“J&R has had our DOL Apprenticeship since 2017,” said Erin Albrecht, Owner, J&R Tile. “This has helped us recruit and develop a highly-skilled workforce that increases employee retention, while minimizing liability costs. It also improves employee engagement, company culture, project productivity, and of course – our bottom line.
“One of the Apprenticeship Ambassador Initiatives is to promote and expand awareness of the benefits of Registered Apprenticeship,” she added. “Partners and innovation play a major role. It is J&R’s intention to support and guide other members in the NTCA to develop their own.”
What do Apprentice Ambassadors do?
Apprentice Ambassadors partner with the DOL during their two-year term to:
- Promote and expand awareness of the benefits of Registered Apprenticeship in the U.S. for industry, employers, career seekers, educators, and communities as a whole
- Identify and scale innovative practices and partnerships to modernize, strengthen, and accelerate the adoption of Registered Apprenticeship
- Increase access and support for underrepresented and underserved populations in Registered Apprenticeship including women, youth, people of color, rural communities, justice-involved individuals, and people with disabilities
- Communicate the business case for Registered Apprenticeship as a mainstream workforce strategy for high-demand industries and creating opportunities for good jobs for all Americans across the economy
Apprenticeship Ambassadors support DOL’s goals of modernizing Registered Apprenticeship, increasing diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in Registered Apprenticeships (RA), engaging industry in new and emerging sectors, and expanding pre-apprenticeship, youth apprenticeship and degree apprenticeships.
Apprenticeship Ambassadors assist with the following activities:
- Partnerships and Innovation: Launch new, innovative Registered Apprenticeship partnerships and initiatives. Examples of partnership or innovation activities could include:
o Developing partnerships with intermediaries, community based organizations, and workforce development partners;
o Creating new RAs and/or pre-apprenticeship programs that lead to RA particularly in high demand industries and/or occupations;
o Improving equity in RA by conducting outreach and recruitment efforts aimed at increasing opportunities for underrepresented populations;
o Mobilizing resources and new investments to create opportunities for business, philanthropy, and others to invest in apprenticeship expansion; and
o Building public-private strategic partnerships and other mechanisms to accelerate apprenticeship adoption and innovation.
- Best Practices, Research and Impact: Develop and share research, lessons learned, and best practices. Other examples of possible activities in this area could include:
o Developing and sharing success stories, research, lessons learned, and best practices to advance the impact of RA;
o Scaling up current RAs to expand the availability to more businesses and workers across the country; and
o Expanding the use of evaluation and data-driven efforts to improve RA.
Benefits to selected Apprenticeship Ambassadors include:
- National recognition as an Apprenticeship Ambassador, which includes elevating the Ambassador’s efforts to expand and diversify Registered Apprenticeship;
- Being a part of a network of industry, workforce, education, equity, and labor apprenticeship champions to share best practices in the industry and/or area of expertise; and,
- The opportunity to partner with DOL to shape Registered Apprenticeship expansion and diversification in your industry, supply chain, area of expertise, and local area.
“We believe apprenticeship is a fundamental tool for business support, success and growth in the tile industry,” explained Albrecht. “It creates a strong foundational knowledge, when coupled with NTCA University, for related instruction hours, for anyone entering the tile trade.”
How J&R Tile will support apprenticeship in this role
Albrecht said, “June 23rd is our first meeting to discuss goals and agendas. This is the 2nd cohort of Apprenticeship Ambassadors nationally.”
For J&R Tile, the first order of business is “to get 10 other NTCA members on board to start their own Registered Apprenticeship to make the biggest impact possible,” she added.
As an Apprenticeship Ambassador, J&R Tile commits to the following activities throughout its 2-year term:
- Hosting four meetings or conferences
- Conducting four outreach and recruitment activities
- Developing four resources
- J&R will also target the underserved population of women
J&R Tile also commits to a willingness to participate in conduct or support the following Outreach Activities:
- Participation in National Apprenticeship Week;
- Sharing best practices in Registered Apprenticeship with DOL
- Recruiting additional Apprenticeship Ambassadors
- Conducting outreach to businesses and employers within the industry, supply chain, or geographic location on behalf of DOL
- Participation in up to two DOL regional convenings by industry
- Will allow DOL to display organizational logo on DOL websites and promotional materials
- Participation in DOL-hosted Apprenticeship Ambassador events (virtual/in-person)
- Host organizational open houses for prospective apprentices, educational, training or other stakeholders on behalf of DOL;
- Author DOL blogs, op-eds or appear in videos, provide testimonials
“We find that most ‘helpers’ play a role in the industry with few opportunities for growth,” Albrecht said. “But the truth is these are the folks who make up the future of our industry. That’s why we refer to them as apprentices. We all know the skilled labor shortage is a real problem. Why not try to find a solution to this problem by creating a clear path of growth for apprentices to grow into installers? We want others to experience success and become DOL Apprenticeship Ambassadors as well.”
In recognition of J&R Tile’s support in promoting, expanding, and diversifying Registered Apprenticeship, J&R Tile’s Apprenticeship Ambassador status will be publicized by OA on the Apprenticeship.gov website.
NTCA weighs in
Bart Bettiga, NTCA Executive Director, said, “I think this is a significant step in a positive direction, and J&R Tile is the first tile company I am aware of that has been selected for this project to this point. Perhaps this will springboard others to join in this effort.
“For the past several years, the NTCA has spearheaded efforts to support the growth of apprenticeship training throughout the U.S.,” he added. “Our efforts led to the development of NTCA University (online apprenticeship courses) and to U.S. Department of Labor approval of our guidelines to be used for contracting companies to create their own programs. It has become increasingly clear that for apprenticeship to grow on a national level, we need grass roots support from contractors on a local level to embrace and promote apprenticeship development. J&R Tile has understood and supported our direction from the beginning, and we are extremely pleased to see their appointment as an Apprenticeship Ambassador.”