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Iowa High School
Registered Apprenticeship Playbook 2.0

A Future Ready Iowa Apprentice Welding - Colorful Streams of Light

High School Registered Apprenticeship Programs Transform Lives

Registered Apprenticeship (RA) opportunities can be life-changing for high school students wanting to jump-start rewarding careers while helping employers develop a skilled early talent pipeline. With about 60 high schools and at least 90 employers participating, Iowans are seeing the value of this “earn and learn” model that combines education and training with a paycheck from Day One and leads to a valuable national credential. The purpose of the Iowa High School Registered Apprenticeship Playbook 2.0 is to encourage high schools to start or expand this extraordinary option by showing the difference RA makes, and how easily it can be done.

Gov. Kim Reynolds is a champion of work-based learning – including RA – because these real-world experiences help many students see why education matters by exploring and preparing for careers that fit them. Prior to June 2018, Iowa had just one location offering RA in high school – Central Campus in Des Moines. In June 2018, with ambitions of scaling statewide, the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council, Vermeer Corporation, the Career Academy of Pella, Des Moines Area Community College and the U.S. Department of Labor launched an RA pilot and produced Iowa’s first high school RA playbook. Both were keys to future growth and national recognition for Iowa’s RA in high school initiative. This aligns with the Future Ready Iowa goal of 70% of our workforce having education or training beyond high school by 2025, with a focus on high-demand jobs.

Recent high school graduates' stories underscore why expanding Registered Apprenticeships (RA) matters. Take Landon Toom, a 2020 Pella High School graduate who completed an engineering assistant RA in December 2020 at Vermeer Corporation. He had no interest in this program when first recruited, but that soon changed.

  • Landon Toom

    Landon Toom

    "I loved it. It was an awesome program. I got to see what the real working world looked like and I got paid to do it, all while still in high school."

    Landon, who is now a robotic welder at Vermeer, said the company also helped him learn about other engineering positions, and he plans to earn a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering.
  • Abigail Parsons

    Abby Parsons

    The 2021 Davenport Central High School graduate said her welding Registered Apprenticeship likely kept her in school.

Today, about 140 rural and urban high school apprentices are learning 19 occupations that include advanced manufacturing, IT and health care due to strong school-business partnerships. While high school RA is but a fraction of the total approximately 7,950 Iowa Registered Apprentices of all ages, the potential for growth is significant as word spreads. David Ottavianelli, director of strategic projects – labor relations at John Deere, put it this way:

  • David Ottavianelli

    David Ottavianelli



Iowans working together can rapidly increase RA programs in high schools. Please share this playbook with potential partners in your community – employers, educators, students, parents and others – to encourage them to pursue this great work-based learning option. Let them know that state and federal funding can help. In addition, a first-rate state-federal team will provide technical assistance. It is especially important to accelerate outreach to young women and students with diverse backgrounds, who are underrepresented in RA. Growing RA in high schools can transform the future for more students and provide a workforce solution for more employers. Nothing demonstrates what is possible better than the progress Iowa has made by increasing high school RA programs since 2018.

High School Registered Apprenticeship (RA) Programs – Statewide Locations

Created by Labor Market Information, for updates contact Kris Byam.

High School Success Stories

  • Davenport and West Delaware School Districts show how Registered Apprenticeship in high school can be done

    Ayden Palmer - Apprentice

    Registered Apprenticeship programs are making an impact in Iowa’s rural and urban high schools. Learn how programs in Davenport and West Delaware are preparing students with the knowledge, skills and confidence to excel in their occupational fields. 

Registered Apprenticeship (RA) Programs at a Glance

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What high schools need to know

High schools in partnership with employers – and often community colleges – are in an ideal position to create Registered Apprenticeship (RA) programs for their students in many occupations because they can easily recruit potential candidates. This opens exciting, early career pathways for students, while meeting regional workforce needs. That includes addressing shortages in high-demand fields like advanced manufacturing, health care and IT. All RA programs involve paid on-the-job training and related classroom instruction to develop valuable skills that lead to earning a national credential recognized industry-wide.

The process of starting an RA program is simple. School administrators, work-based learning coordinators and high school teachers connect with local employers to determine the occupations that meet their current or future workforce needs. Once an occupation is selected, educators and employers review class offerings. Typically, existing coursework is used. However, if employers request new courses that the local high school doesn’t offer, community colleges or other school districts may assist with in-person or virtual instruction. High schools recruit candidates for RA, and employers make all hiring decisions. Most programs start with one or two apprentices.

Here are other questions educators may have about RA in high school:

Iowa’s “Earn and Learn” website is a great place to start. It provides information specifically for educators, including how to create/sponsor a program, the benefits for students and available funding:

Ask Iowa’s dedicated state-federal team to help start the conversation with potential employers, who are the driving force behind RA. Please see the list of contacts toward the end of the playbook. Once a high school and a company decide to move forward, the state-federal team will help create the program. The Statewide Work-Based Learning Intermediary Network also can connect high schools to potential business and industry partners.

In Iowa, school districts usually serve as the intermediary sponsor for RA in high school. They oversee the program, which includes aligning with federal requirements; scheduling related classroom instruction; recruiting students; tracking competencies; following students to completion of certification after high school; and applying for state and federal grants.

It can take a matter of weeks or a number of months from the initial school-business discussion to recruit and sign the first apprentice(s). It all depends on how quickly high schools and employers develop a program. The U.S. Department of Labor provides a clear outline for local partners to utilize and customize.

The instructor overseeing an RA program collaborates with students and employers to schedule classes and workplace hours; visits the work site to observe the student and meet with his or her mentor; and confers with the employer on evaluations. The instructor assists if issues arise, such as difficulty demonstrating required competencies.

A list of all high schools participating in RA and related contact information can be found here:

Find out whether a nearby school district, nonpublic school or community college that offers RA to high school students has openings. A number of high schools have utilized this approach.

Yes, state and federal funding may be available for RA programs in Iowa.

As schools across Iowa expand work-based learning, high schools sponsoring RA programs provide another outstanding choice for students ready to take that step. RA in high school can transform the future for young people who earn a steady income and likely will be offered a job by their employer upon program completion. RA also helps teachers modernize instruction for all students by learning more about what employers need to innovate and compete.

What Employers Need To Know

Employers are the foundation of Registered Apprenticeship (RA) partnerships and are directly involved in the creation of each program. They work with high schools and community colleges to determine what occupations should be developed into RA programs. Employers assist in selecting courses and establishing required competencies to ensure industry standards, aligned with company training needs, are met. Students must demonstrate those competencies to complete a program, which typically takes one to three years. That helps fill critical job openings both during and after RA. School districts typically serve as the intermediary sponsors for RA programs involving high school students, relieving employers of the administrative burden. Community colleges and employers, however, also may sponsor RA for participants 16 years of age and older. 

Once the RA program is designed, high schools recruit candidates for employers to interview because they know their students best, while employers make all hiring decisions. Next, employers provide structured, paid on-the-job training. Each apprentice will work with a mentor who teaches career skills and determines task proficiency.  

Below are common questions employers ask about RA with high school students: 

Secondary schools can provide an “ocean” of potential applicants for employers. Employers are encouraged to connect with educators and students as early as middle school, so students know what prerequisites to take and how to begin RA later in high school. This jump-starts career planning.

Employers and high schools, and sometimes community colleges, discuss what occupations are in greatest demand and whether the aligned classes needed are available at the high school and/or community college. If not, they consider options for creating classes. A state-federal team will provide technical assistance.

Students typically work part-time during the school year and full-time during summer, school breaks and after graduation from high school. High schools recruit students to be considered by the employer for the RA program and each participating business interviews and hires based upon its procedures.

High schools work directly with employers to ensure apprentices meet program expectations. That includes high school staff observing them on the job, and conferring with the employer about evaluations. If problems arise, high school staff will work to address them. If concerns continue, the business can end employment.

No, the business does not have to offer employment, but most do because apprentices have the crucial skills and knowledge employers want following program completion.

Over 1,400 occupations may be utilized for RA, including careers in advanced manufacturing, agriculture, business, health care, IT and veterinary care.

Liability issues have been explored and resolved as RA programs in high schools have expanded across Iowa. 

Child Labor Law Provisions and Details

Wage and Hour Laws 

An employer may start a program with just one student in partnership with a single school district. The starting pay must be minimum wage, with at least one pay progression during the program.

Businesses, high schools and community colleges working together drive the success of RA for young people across Iowa. These partnerships deliver high-quality technical education and other professional skills that launch rewarding careers while meeting employer demand for an increasingly high-skilled, innovative workforce. Everyone benefits, including communities whose local economies thrive as a result.

What students and families need to know

What do students and the adults in their lives need to know about Registered Apprenticeship (RA) in high school? That’s a relatively new question because this exceptional work-based learning option has been available to Iowa youth for just a few years. Currently 60 of Iowa’s 353 high schools participate in the “earn and learn” model that involves attending classes and being paid for on-the-job training in a growing number of career fields, including advanced manufacturing, health care, engineering and IT. Apprentices who demonstrate competencies end up with a valuable national credential, and sometime receive dual high school and college credit. 

It’s important to know RA can work for all students and leads to a variety of next steps. Many young adults continue working full-time for their employer when they finish their program, typically within a year after high school graduation. They may eventually be promoted to management. Others decide to build on the accomplishment of earning a national RA credential by completing a college degree or other stackable postsecondary credentials. 

Here’s a short list of key things students and parents or legal guardians may want to know: 

RA programs are administered by the U.S. Department of Labor/Office of Apprenticeship, which sets high standards for eligible occupations and collaborates with employers, unions, high schools and community colleges to determine the competencies apprentices must master to be awarded a national credential.

If a high school does not offer this work-based learning option, it can explore the possibility of working with another school system or community college that does.

The occupations depend on the school-business partnerships that have been created locally to meet regional workforce needs. Iowa students are currently involved in 19 occupations with more than 80 employers across the state The list of career fields is likely to grow.

Students often start related classroom training either sophomore or junior year. During or after their junior year, apprentices will start on-the-job learning with their employer. Schedules blend attending courses – both regular and RA classes – with working part-time during the school year and typically full-time in the summer. Employers usually are flexible about extracurricular and co-curricular activities.

Usually yes, but not always. It depends on the length of the RA program.

No, students who complete earn a nationally recognized credential debt-free.

Each Registered Apprentice will work with a mentor at their workplace – who assists with everything from developing technical and employability skills to making sure safety protocols are followed. In addition, a teacher will monitor each student’s progress and address any concerns that come up. Evaluations are ongoing for quality assurance and continuous improvement purposes.

Signing is an employment opportunity that comes with a commitment to learn technical and employability skills and work hard. That said, students can end an apprenticeship at any time.

No, but completion almost always leads to a full-time job offer from the employer.

Finally, consider this perspective on RA in high school from Seth Harms, a career-technical education instructor in the West Delaware County Community School District, a pioneer in expanding RA for students: “Why not take the chance? Students are going to learn so much more from industry or the facility than they are in the classroom. The opportunity to gain better skills, that is invaluable. And if you decide to not to do it forever, you’ve still got that skill set.” 

What community colleges need to know

Iowa’s 15 community colleges can play a significant role in the success of high school Registered Apprenticeship (RA) programs by collaborating in many ways. Colleges, through agreements with high schools, may provide the career and technical education (CTE) courses students take to prepare to enter RA programs. Community colleges also can provide dual high school and college credit for the courses that student apprentices must take related to the required on-the-job training. And while school districts typically serve as the intermediary sponsors for RA programs involving their high school students because they can easily recruit and work closely with them, community colleges also can serve as intermediary sponsors. In that case, the program is not technically a high school RA program, but can serve apprentices 16 and older. Whether launching new programs or strengthening current programs, partnerships with community colleges benefit students, educators, employers and communities working together to prepare a future-ready workforce. 

As the number of apprenticeable careers grows, so will the opportunities available through community colleges, allowing more students to plan their future, earn a paycheck sooner and provide workforce solutions for employers. The national credential that an apprentice earns upon completing their program is extraordinarily valuable all by itself. But community colleges also can help apprentices earn additional industry-recognized credentials or pursue up to an associate degree. The Future Ready Iowa Last Dollar Scholarship may help cover tuition. 

Below is more information about how community colleges can help grow RA in high schools:

First, identify and train a single point of contact at your community college to work with employers and high schools. Second, review the list of high school RA programs at  to learn who is already involved. Third, contact potential employers and high school partners to ask if they are interested in starting or want assistance with an RA program. Iowa Workforce Development, the Iowa Statewide Work-Based Learning Intermediary Network and regional economic development organizations can help with employer outreach. Key high school contacts include superintendents, principals, college and career transition counselors and work-based learning coordinators.

Community colleges can perform a needs assessment for businesses to differentiate the employability skills to be taught in related classroom instruction versus on-the-job training provided by the employer. In addition, colleges can provide the CTE courses students should take to prepare to start an RA program as well as the required courses apprentices must take. The dual high school and college credit students may earn in these classes can help reduce future college debt if apprentices decide to pursue other postsecondary credentials up to a two-year degree.

Provide information about postsecondary options apprentices may want to consider in addition to the national credential they will earn upon completing the RA program. That includes how to earn additional industry-recognized credentials or other credentials up to two-year degrees.

Yes, the colleges have great communications platforms to promote RA for high school students and adults, especially in collaboration with the Statewide Work-Based Learning Intermediary Network.

Consider joining the Iowa Community College Apprenticeship Workalike peer-sharing group to learn about best practices, recommendations and other aspects of RA in high school.

Iowa’s community colleges offer many valuable services, connections and resources to train Iowa’s skilled workforce through RA programs. This is in keeping with their mission to open doors for more Iowans as well as the Future Ready Iowa goal of having 70% of Iowa’s workforce with education or training beyond high school by 2025. 


Iowa Leads The Way On Registered Apprenticeship (RA) In High Schools

This Iowa High School Registered Apprenticeship Playbook 2.0 is driven by the need to expand this extraordinary option for students ready to start rewarding careers while helping employers develop an early talent pipeline. Iowa’s workforce shortage calls for innovative approaches, and our state has gained national attention for the progress made so far, which was highlighted by a 2020 Urban Institute report: “Although many high schools across the U.S. have work-based learning programs, Iowa’s initiative is notable for its quality and focus through Registered Apprenticeships, engagement of high schools as apprenticeship program sponsors, and potential for growing youth apprenticeships based on employer and student interest. Partnerships between high schools and private-sector businesses drive the youth apprenticeship initiative’s success, as both schools and companies deliver high-quality technical education to help student apprentices become qualified and perform well in various occupational areas.”

But additional concrete steps are needed to expand RA beyond distributing this playbook across Iowa. As the Urban Institute report noted, one of Iowa’s challenges is increasing the number and diversity of occupations available, which depends on the location of high schools and companies. Engaging more businesses and high schools of all sizes is essential to appeal to students with a broad range of career interests and place more apprentices. It’s also critical to recruit more young women and other underrepresented students, including Black and Hispanic students and students with disabilities.

RA makes it possible to earn a steady income before graduating, learn in-demand skills leading to great jobs, and keeps the door open to additional postsecondary education and training as Saheed Pryce, a Waterloo student doing a CNC Set-Up Programmer Registered Apprenticeship, illustrates. The West High School senior knew he wanted to pursue this advanced manufacturing career, but the RA offered through the Waterloo Career Center with John Deere made it possible. 

  • Saheed Pryce

    Abby Parsons

    “Registered Apprenticeship is actually life-changing because it gives you a career path to follow...”

    Saheed plans to attend college to learn even more about CNC – which involves operating computer-controlled machines or robots to perform machine functions on metal or plastic work pieces.

Registered Apprenticeship is a proven future-ready strategy that benefits Iowa’s young people and workforce. It also strengthens communities. While RA is not for everyone, all high school students who are ready should have this outstanding work-based learning option. 

Registered Apprenticeship (RA) in High School Contacts

Below is a list of contacts to call or email with your questions about Registered Apprenticeship programs for high school students:

Iowa Department of Education

Linda Fandel, Governor’s Liaison for Future Ready Iowa, 515-802-0989 or

U.S. Department of Labor/Office of Apprenticeship

Greer Sisson, State Director, 515-284-4690 or

Iowa Workforce Development

Ali Sidwell, Bureau Chief, 515-725-4125 or

Kristopher Byam, Program Coordinator, 515-725-3663 or


More tips for businesses and high schools considering Registered Apprenticeship

The Importance Of Mentors

  • Business-conducted mentor and manager training: A Registered Apprenticeship (RA) program requires a 1:1 mentor, which is a crucial element. The mentor represents the employer through his or her interactions with the apprentice, which means the apprentice perception of the mentor is the perception of the employer. Preparing the mentor for that responsibility is well worth the time invested toward a successful program.  

  • What are the most important topics related to mentorship? Introducing the RA program to mentors and explaining the importance of the program. Explaining the roles of Registered Apprentices, mentors and supervisors/managers. Discovering each Registered Apprentice’s learning styles and goals. Understanding the assessments for the program, whether it is competency-based, time-based, or a hybrid. Knowing the communication and tracking tools related to the program.  Implementing employment policies and safety protocols.  Preparing for the future (steps in the process). 

  • While training is key to preparing the mentor and manager at the beginning of the experience, ongoing check-ins and development are also important. Mentoring is an organic process and discoveries will be made and addressed throughout the journey. 



A number of myths are associated with Registered Apprenticeship programs. High schools and businesses usually find misinformation and concerns are resolved through the development and implementation process.  

  • Are companies legally allowed to have young people under the age of 18 in a manufacturing environment? Yes, Registered Apprentices age 16 and older may work in manufacturing per specific guidance in U.S. Department of Labor child labor laws

  • Are a lot of paperwork and red tape involved in hosting Registered Apprentices? The majority of tracking is accomplished through a well-established and simple checklist  provided by the U.S. Department of Labor/Office of Apprenticeship, with U.S. DOL ongoing support just a phone call or email away. Spending brief, focused time identifying efficient processes for recruiting, tracking or training students on the front end keeps the ongoing recordkeeping at a minimum. 

  • Does an employer have to invest a lot of time and energy into the Registered Apprentice before seeing a return on their investment? Registered Apprentices have a required number of hours in preliminary skills training, so they come to the workplace prepared for many work-related tasks.  They continue learning as they work, which allows employers to train apprentices to meet the employer’s preferences.  

  • Will the students want to work? Apprentices are usually highly-motivated employees since they have the opportunity to  pursue a hands-on learning style that is new and exciting to them, and sets them up for  success. 

  • Is Registered Apprenticeship an out-of-date concept teaching out-of-date trade skills for out-of-date pay? The RA program has been reinvigorated as a successful and effective workforce  employment tool across the nation. Apprenticeships have been and are being  developed in a wide range of career fields – from advanced manufacturing to health care to IT – with employers providing significant compensation to attract the best and brightest into their high-demand, increasingly high-skilled positions.


How high schools can recruit businesses

Show them the data. 

Economic development organizations have valuable information on regional workforce needs and gaps. For example, share the number of students who are going through local career and technical education (CTE) courses and how they are prime candidates for RA programs.

Survey your stakeholders.

Find out what local companies’ employment wants and needs are. Listen to what your students are looking for in a future career. Build programs that address both.

Establish an advisory board.

Recruit a few business representatives to guide your Registered Apprenticeship efforts. Successful programs are employer-driven. Giving employers a channel to share their voices and expertise and then acting on that is critical. Bringing them together feeds enthusiasm and best practices.

Track your successes.

As your RA program progresses, document valuable information such as recruitment numbers, program retention, employers’ positive experiences/quotes, etc. Success loves company.

State and Federal Financial Support

Iowa Registered Apprenticeship Act - 15B 

Source: $3 million, FY22 annual state appropriation.


Funding available under this grant is based on the applicant’s proportionate share of the statewide total of qualified Registered Apprentices participating in a qualified Registered Apprenticeship program. A qualified apprenticeship program must be registered with the U.S. Department of Labor/Office of Apprenticeship (U.S. DOL/OA) and the program must provide a minimum of 100 in-person contact hours to qualify for funding. A qualified Registered Apprentice who can be included in the applicant’s total apprentice count is defined as an active or completed apprentice during the most recent training year.  


The annual application period is Jan. 1 – Feb. 1 and will be accepted from any Iowa-registered U.S. DOL/OA sponsor or lead sponsor for the previous training year (January-December). Application can be made online:


Available annually to any Iowa-registered U.S. DOL/OA sponsor or lead sponsor. 


Visit or email  

Registered Apprenticeship Development Fund - 15C 

Source: $760,000, FY22 annual state appropriation.


Applicants are eligible to receive up to $25,000 per eligible high-demand occupation for which it applies. Applicants can apply for more than one eligible occupation; grant awards for applicants receiving more than one grant will be capped at $50,000. 


Annual application period is Jan. 1 – Feb. 1 and will be accepted from any Iowa-registered U.S. DOL/OA sponsor who has established a Registered Apprenticeship in a new high-demand occupation in the previous training year (January-December). Application can be made online at: 


Available annually to any Iowa-registered U.S. DOL/OA sponsor or lead sponsor who has established a new Registered Apprenticeship in a high-demand occupation. 


Visit or email  


Additional Grants


If the high school is registered through the work of Iowa Workforce Development (IWD) on the creation of a program, the apprentice will receive $100 for approved supportive services.


The high school would need to contact IWD's Registered Apprenticeship program coordinator to start the registration process.


Funding expires June 30, 2022.


Visit or email


$1,500 per Registered Apprentice in the sectors of health care, agriculture, or an industry or apprentice affected by COVID.


Submit an application at:


Funding expires on June 30, 2023.


Visit or email


Funds are determined and associated to eligible participants. Each Local Workforce Development Area (LWDA) has established funding limits regarding the amount and duration of services to a participant unique to their LWDA.


Participants can apply at any time by contacting their local IowaWORKS Center. IowaWORKS Center locations can be found online at:


Funds for youth services are allocated to states and local areas by the United States Department of Labor annually.


Visit or email


Thank you to the many contributors to the Iowa Registered Apprenticeship in High School Playbook 2.0: Iowa Workforce Development, the Iowa Department of Education, the Iowa Economic Development Authority, the Governor's Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Advisory Council, the U.S. Department of Labor/Office of Apprenticeship (Iowa), John Deere, the Work-Based Learning Program based in Pella, Davenport Community School District, Pella Community School District, Waterloo Community School District and West Delaware County Community School District. 

Iowa High School Registered Apprenticeship Playbook 2.0 - Issued September 2021.