What is an Apprenticeship: Background on Registered Apprenticeships with Department of Labor
A Registered Apprenticeship program is a written plan designed to move an apprentice from a low or no skill entry-level position to full occupational proficiency. These programs must meet parameters established under the National Apprenticeship Act that are designed to protect the welfare of the apprentice (see 29 C.F.R. Part 29). The Act and its promulgating regulations are administered by the Department of Labor (DoL) or a State Apprenticeship Agency approved by the Secretary of Labor for federal purposes.
Generally, a Registered Apprenticeship program is sponsored by an individual business or an employer association. However, in the case of TIRAP, an industry board develops and oversees the training and qualification standards and coordinates with the DoL or other appropriate registration agencies to approve individual employer’s participation in the program. This framework is unique within the requirements of the DoL. The primary intent will be to provide consistency in training and competency across the industry, which in turn will improve safety and training for workers and increase the availability of highly skilled workers necessary for billions of dollars worth of network deployment projects. Upon finishing the training program, an apprentice earns a “Completion of Registered Apprenticeship” certificate, a nationally-recognized credential that validates proficiency in an apprenticeable occupation. The program requires classroom and on the job (“OTJ”) training.
An apprenticeable occupation is one which is specified by industry and which must:
(a) Involve skills that are customarily learned in a practical way through a structured, systematic program of on-the-job supervised learning;
(b) Be clearly identified and commonly recognized throughout an industry;
(c) Involve the progressive attainment of manual, mechanical or technical skills and knowledge which, in accordance with the industry standard for the occupation, would require the completion of on-the-job learning to attain; and
(d) Require related instruction to supplement the on-the-job learning. (29 C.F.R. §29.4)
For more information on DoL Registered Apprenticeships, visit DoL’s Employment and Training Administration’s website at http://www.doleta.gov/oa/.
What is TIRAP?
The Telecommunications Industry Registered Apprenticeship Program (“TIRAP”) is a joint venture of the Department of Labor, government agencies, and the telecommunications industry members invested in improving workplace safety, addressing industry workforce needs, and providing employment and advancement opportunities. The TIRAP is governed by By-Laws that provide for administration through an executive board. The executive board is comprised of individual members of the telecommunications industry who are nominated and elected by a defined group of telecommunications industry trade associations. For the current list of TIRAP executive board members and advisers, click here.
The TIRAP board is responsible for:
- Developing and updating the work process for the program;
- Reviewing and approving the training programs of individual employers;
- Developing evaluations for determining an apprentice’s progress and providing credit for past experience/education; and
- Coordinating and consulting with the DoLOA and other partners on program improvement.
TIRAP is also comprised of committees of subject matter experts to assist in the ongoing development of the program, including committees on:
- Technology; and
- Workforce Development.
While the TIRAP coordinates with the DoL on establishing the standards of the apprenticeship program and reviews/approves a company’s apprenticeship program as consistent with the TIRAP requirements, the individual company’s apprenticeship program is registered directly with the DoL or other applicable agency and the company directly engages apprentices. The TIRAP board continues to monitor the individual programs and inform the participating companies of improvements or modifications in the program.
What Apprenticeship is the TIRAP Administering?
The TIRAP’s basic apprenticeship is currently for the occupation of Telecommunication Tower Technician (“TTT”). A TTT is a member of a crew performing general construction activities with an emphasis on tower system installation and maintenance/inspection of existing support structures used in the provision of telecommunication systems, including personal wireless communications, public safety communications, utility networks, and broadcasting.
The apprenticeship utilizes a hybrid approach that measures the individual apprentice’s skill acquisition through a combination of specified minimum number of hours of on-the-job learning and the successful demonstration of competency in a variety of skills and safety protocols as described in a work process. The work process developed by the TIRAP draws from current regulations and industry standards and generally-accepted best practices to outline the necessary competencies that must be mastered by the apprentice in order to be credentialed as TTT. Training includes, but is not limited to:
- Competent Climber (OSHA Standard 29 CFR 1910 and 29 CFR 1926; ANSI Z359; NATE CTS)
- Ongoing Training Requirements in Rescue and Personal Protective Equipment
- Radio Frequency Health and Safety Training
- Jobsite Hazard Analysis
- Understanding Scope of Work (“SOW”)
- Basic Rigging
- Understanding SOW
- Material Handling
- Antenna/Line Installation and Maintenance
- Lighting System Installation and Maintenance
- Tower Structural Installation
- Applicable Standards Awareness
- Exothermic Welds
- Test Equipment
- Basic Understanding of Regulatory (NEPA, NHPA, Endangered Species Act, etc.)
- Operate Hand and Power Tools
- Operate Trucks, Trailers, and Equipment
- Competent in the Operation Capstan
- Equipment Applicable to the SOW
- Introduction to Various Types of Structures and Appurtenances
The apprenticeship program will be expanded over time to provide for development of subject matter expertise and opportunity for career advancement. With the TTT being the basic journeyworker within the industry, the TIRAP is developing work processes to provide these workers with the opportunity to earn certification as leadman, foreman, and project supervisor/manager in particular skill sets.
How Will the Apprenticeship Program Facilitate a Safer Workplace?
The telecommunications industry and the TIRAP board recognize the growing problem of workplace accidents during operations and maintenance on wireless infrastructure. We are committed to proactively addressing this problem through various educational and outreach efforts. The TIRAP apprenticeship program is a key, multi-faceted tool in this effort.
First, the apprenticeship builds on the collective experience and generally-accepted best practices of the wireless industry to create the safety curriculum.
Second, apprentices who successfully complete the program will receive certification that stays with them from employer to employer, job to job. As such, each employer and sub-contractor that participates in the DoL apprenticeship program will have documentation from current and potential employees that attests to their training and knowledge. This will address the planning requirements necessary to ensure that quality work is performed in the safest of manners.
Third, the training will be constantly and consistently updated so that the cutting edge technology and state-of-the-art techniques are incorporated into the program. As new safety concerns and solutions arise, the TIRAP board will integrate them into the work process so that apprentices are not only knowledgeable about the newest trends and technology in the telecommunications industry, they will also know how to perform quality work safely within these new circumstances.
How Can the Apprenticeship Program Foster Employment Opportunities, Continuing Education, and Career Advancement for Workers?
Providing opportunities for the telecommunications workforce to improve their skills, to seek advance education opportunities and to become leaders in the industry is central to TIRAP’s mission.
The TIRAP establishes the structure for consistency in safety, quality and subject matter expertise by outlining training that focuses on the scope of work and is in accord with the industry-wide standards. Through ongoing development of career paths, which features expertise and leadership development beginning with the TTT and proceeding through various key subject matters, apprentices, employers and the workforce at large can set attainable and measureable career development goals.