Apprenticeship Programs in the California Community Colleges: A Primer

Treasurer of the ASCCC
Vice President of the ASCCC

Apprenticeship programs in institutions of higher education include the pairing of coursework and paid work experience for the student.  The state and federal government are very supportive of such programs, as students learn a trade while earning college credits and money to support themselves.   Each year the California Legislature and the federal Department of Labor set aside money to support not only existing programs but also the expansion of apprenticeship programs into non-traditional fields.

With the expansion of apprenticeship programs a part of the Strong Workforce Program recommendations, the ASCCC began researching how apprenticeship is used throughout the state.  Currently, 21 colleges feature some apprenticeship program.  By far, the Foothill-DeAnza and Santiago Canyon CCDs have most of the apprenticeship programs and utilize most of the money available from the state.  That money is often referred to as RSI (Related Supplemental Instruction) or Montoya money.  Most of those programs are directly tied to the traditional trade unions including electrical, plumbing, and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC).  Apprenticeship programs generally do not claim regular apportionment.

Traditionally, each district enters into a contract with a labor organization.  Districts keep approximately 15% of the RSI money and the rest is given to the trade union to provide instructional services. Curriculum must be approved through the regular college processes either as credit or noncredit instruction and the program must be approved by the state.  Students can earn certificates and degrees from the college through apprenticeship programs.  The curriculum committees are asked to place the course in either credit apprenticeship or noncredit apprenticeship.  However, instruction usually takes place off-campus at a union office with instructors selected and paid by labor organizations using the other 85% of the RSI money.

In practice, the relationship between the college and industry seems tenuous.  Local curriculum committees have expressed concerns that the curriculum submitted for some apprenticeship programs does not meet their local college standards or that the assignment of an appropriate discipline is not based on the best preparation of potential faculty to teach the depth expressed by the curriculum and the breadth of knowledge required to be college level. Faculty leaders have also reported difficulty in maintaining appropriate engagement between apprenticeship programs and college processes, including program review elements such as student equity evaluation, certificate and degree completion rates, and institutional planning.

AB86 (2013 – 14) and subsequent Adult Education Block Grant legislation granted fiscal authority for apprenticeship programs to the California community colleges.  This situation has added to the distrust between labor unions and the community colleges as the Chancellor’s Office works to understand the fiscal responsibility and expenditure plans of the labor unions that receive most of the money associated with apprenticeship.

The Strong Workforce Program legislation directed the system to evaluate the minimum qualifications for career technical education instructors, including apprenticeship instructors, as recommended by the Board of Governors Task Force on Workforce, Job Creation, and a Strong Economy.  Current law grants apprenticeship instructors and labor organization representatives the authority to recommend changes to the minimum qualifications through the Chancellor’s Office to the Board of Governors via regular consultative processes (Education Code §87357).  The California Apprenticeship Council is asserting that because it is the organization that represents the apprenticeship faculty and labor organization interests, it is the organization that should recommend any changes to the apprenticeship minimum qualifications.

Education Code

87357.  (a) In establishing and maintaining minimum qualifications pursuant to Section 87356, the board of governors shall do all of the following:

(1)  With regard to minimum qualifications for faculty, the board of governors shall consult with, and rely primarily on the advice and judgment of, the statewide Academic Senate. With regard to minimum qualifications for educational administrators, the board of governors shall consult with, and rely primarily on the advice and judgment of, an appropriate statewide organization of administrators. With regard to minimum qualifications for apprenticeship instructors, the board of governors shall consult with, and rely primarily on the advice and judgment of, appropriate apprenticeship teaching faculty and labor organization representatives. In each case, the board of governors shall provide a reasonable opportunity for comment by other statewide representative groups.

The instructor must be the instructor of record and therefore meet the minimum qualifications for apprenticeship.  Those minimum qualifications are defined in Title 5 §53413:

§53413. Minimum Qualifications for Apprenticeship Instructors.

(a) The minimum qualifications for service as a community college faculty member teaching credit apprenticeship courses shall be satisfied by meeting one of the following two requirements:
(1) Possession of an associate degree, plus four years of occupational experience in the subject matter area to be taught; or

(2) Six years of occupational experience, a journeyman's certificate in the subject matter area to be taught, and completion of at least eighteen (18) semester units of degree applicable college level course work, in addition to apprenticeship credits.

(b) The minimum qualifications for service as a community college faculty member teaching noncredit apprenticeship courses shall be either of the following:

(1) The minimum qualifications for credit apprenticeship instruction as set forth in this section, or

(2) A high school diploma; and six years of occupational experience in the occupation to be taught, including at least two years at the journeyman level; and sixty clock hours or four semester units in materials, methods, and evaluation of instruction. This last requirement may be satisfied concurrently during the first year of employment as an apprenticeship instructor.

Note: Authority cited: Sections 70901 and 87356, Education Code. Reference: Sections 70901(b)(1)(B), 87356 and 87357, Education Code.

At the October 26, 2016, meeting of the California Apprenticeship Council[1], a proposal[2] from its RSI Committee to revise minimum qualifications for credit apprenticeship faculty was presented.

The proposal in its current form would significantly reduce the college education requirement for credit apprenticeship faculty.

Finally, reports exist of discussions at colleges about creating apprenticeship programs beyond the traditional trades and into other career technical education areas.

For these reasons, local senates and curriculum committees must understand both the intentional consequences and attempt to identify any unintentional consequences of such an expansion of apprenticeship instruction into non-traditional areas.  As part of its ongoing efforts to provide information and guidance on academic and professional matters, the ASCCC will continue to work to understand how apprenticeship can best serve our students in order to identify and provide professional guidance on effective practices for establishing apprenticeship programs.

[1] California Apprenticeship Council dates and agendas for meetings and its standing committees are available at