Biden announces national apprenticeship consortium; MCC already has model program in place

Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the 94th Annual Convention of the American Association of Community Colleges. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)
Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the 94th Annual Convention of the American Association of Community Colleges. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

When Vice President Joe Biden announced this month that the U.S. Department of Labor has established the Registered Apprenticeship-College Consortium (RACC), Metropolitan Community College enthusiastically embraced the creation of a national structure for a program MCC has already been offering for 15 years.

In his announcement during the American Association of Community Colleges’ annual convention two weeks ago, Biden said the newly created RACC is meant to improve workers’ employability, work-readiness and college completion rate. The initiative will help better link registered apprenticeships and community college programs on a national scale, thus moving away from individual, sometimes disparate articulation agreements.

Metropolitan Community College’s Business & Technology campus, which primarily offers career and technical education programs, has long recognized the value of an apprenticeship experience for a student’s skill development and job readiness. Thus, in 1999 the campus began a credit-for-apprenticeship initiative, establishing the Apprenticeship Degree Completion program. The MCC-Business & Technology program, which has earned national recognition in recent years, offers a certain number of college credits in relation to the number of hours an apprentice spends in the classroom and on-the-job to complete the requirements of a federally registered apprenticeship, and thus earning Journeyman status. Upon completion of the apprenticeship and the required college coursework, the student is eligible to earn an associate in applied science (A.A.S.) industrial technology degree with an emphasis in his or her particular field. The combination of achieving Journeyman status and earning the A.A.S. degree allows graduates to advance in their current role, apply for management positions or continue their education at a four-year university.

Since beginning the program in 1999, MCC has created 19 apprenticeship degree completion options, ranging from bricklayer to ironworker to painter. In addition, MCC offers the same type of program to military veterans who complete a four-year military technical training program: the A.A.S. industrial technology-military technology degree allows a veteran to earn a college degree in just a few semesters by awarding college credit for skills and technology she or he has already mastered. Also, MCC leaders are in ongoing discussions with The Builders’ Association and the Carpenters’ District Council trade union to improve transferability and to smooth the pathway from apprenticeship to a two-year degree to a four-year degree.

Metropolitan Community College is in the process of formally applying to be part of the national RACC initiative, which will be co-administered by the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Education. While MCC currently offers credit-for-apprenticeship programs only at MCC-Business & Technology, the five-campus college system intends to broaden its offerings to include other career programs at other campuses. Vice President Biden said that he fully expects for the RACC to expand apprenticeship programs to industries not traditionally associated with apprenticeships.