Registered apprenticeship: The ‘other’ college

David L. Casey, Vice President, Workforce Strategies and Chief Diversity Officer, CVS Health, explains why the company has committed to doubling the amount of Registered Apprenticeships.

When I talk with people about CVS Health’s commitment to Registered Apprenticeship, it’s not uncommon for their initial response to be one of confusion. There’s a common perception that apprentices only work under blacksmiths, plumbers and electricians. While that may true, there’s a lot more to Registered Apprenticeship than that.

Registered Apprenticeship participants build skills while earning a paycheck.

Registered Apprenticeship is an almost 80-year-old program managed by the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Office of Apprenticeship that provides opportunities for workers to learn nationally recognized, certified skills or trades while earning a paycheck at the same time. The Secretary of Labor often refers to Registered Apprenticeship as “the other college” because in most cases, training takes place over several years, producing the equivalent of a college degree for program participants without them having to incur student loan debt as they might in a traditional college setting. As of today, there are more than 1,000 career tracks available under this program.

CVS Health joined the Registered Apprentice system in 2005. Our motivation was two-fold – to gain a competitive advantage by investing in a largely untapped entry-level talent pool that would result in a work-ready, highly-skilled workforce while also receiving  tax credit incentives provided by the DOL to employers willing to make the investment of time and resources to take on entry level, unskilled workers. We began our journey in Detroit and have since replicated and expanded Registered Apprenticeship programs in Indiana and South Carolina, resulting in more than 1,500 program participants in pharmacy technician and store manager trainee roles.

For the past decade, we’ve seen the value for the company and our colleagues first hand. That’s why we’re committed to doubling the number of Registered Apprenticeships over the next several years, working with our company’s leadership, the Department of Labor and other workforce development partners to explore where we have the greatest opportunities to effectively do so. Meaningful work and a defined career track provide a source of dignity, pride and identity for many and we’re proud to offer both through Registered Apprenticeship.