IIAR Launches Apprenticeship Program


Apprenticeship programs help businesses develop highlyskilled employees, reduce turnover, increase productivity and cut the cost of recruitment. They can also help employers attract new employees.

To realize these benefits, the International Institute of Ammonia Refrigeration, in partnership with other organizations, has created an apprenticeship program for refrigeration mechanics/ technicians that can help boost the overall workforce within the refrigeration industry.

“The Foundation was pleased to take the lead in this important mission. There are over 40,000 jobs waiting to be filled nationally. Earning While You Learn, is a great way to build America’s workforce, and support the growing needs of our industry as a whole,” said Foundation Executive Director Lois Stirewalt O’Connor.

IIAR worked with the Ammonia Refrigeration Foundation, Refrigerating Engineers Technicians Association, Global Cold Chain Alliance, Lanier Technical College-Technical College System of Georgia and Fastport Inc. to develop the program, which is designed to train an ammonia gas refrigerant technician in all phases of the industry. It combines welldeveloped on-the-job learning combined with related instruction.

Dave Harrison, executive director, national apprenticeship for Fastport, said it is easy for employers to participate in the apprenticeship program. “The major paperwork element has been taken care of already. All you have to do to have a registered apprenticeship program is to fill out and sign the employer acceptance agreement saying you are going to participate in the apprenticeship in a fair and equitable manner,” he said.

Employers need to submit the individual training processes they use to bring an employee from the point of hiring to a journeyman or to turn-key status for their company’s needs. There is no onesize-fits-all approach or specific training program that an individual employer must follow, althoughthere are minimum standards that must be met (see sidebar on next page). Harrison said that the process is designed for an employer to do what they are going to do already but as part of a formalized process.

“They submit their training plan in a simple, outlined format,” Harrison said. “While the certifications are universal, each employer has its own idiosyncrasies and may even have separate idiosyncrasies by location.”

There is no cost to IIAR members for the program and it isn’t time consuming. “It only requires you to process one piece of paper for every person that goes into the program. Literally that is all that is required to enter an apprenticeship program,” Harrison said, adding that it takes less than five minutes.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, every registered apprenticeship program must have a sponsor that is responsible for the overall operation of the program. “Sponsors can be a single business or a consortium of businesses. They can also be a range of workforce intermediaries, including an industry association or a joint labor-management organization,” DOL said.

The apprenticeship program doesn’t mandate a specific number of participants per employer. “There is no quota. In fact, just because you have an apprenticeship program doesn’t mean you have to use it. You can establish it and have it ready for when you want to use it,” Harrison said.

Once the apprentice has completed all of the requirements of the apprenticeship program, the sponsor will certify the information and request a Certificate of Completion of Apprenticeship.


One of the biggest benefits to employers is improved retention. More than 90 percent of apprentices that complete an apprenticeship are still employed nine months later, DOL reported.

In addition to the retention benefits, there can be potential financial benefits to employees taking part in apprenticeship programs as well as for employers that implement them.

If employers engage veterans, any veteran who is eligible for the GI Bill who is participating in the apprenticeship program can draw a monthly housing allowance, which averages about $1,400 a month. “It comes out of that individual’s GI Bill. For those participants, retention is off the charts,” Harrison said.

For the employee to get the GI Bill benefits, the employer has to certify the hours the apprentice works. It does require additional paperwork, but Harrison said it is worth it because of the increased retention levels.

The DOL said businesses sponsoring apprenticeship programs may qualify for state-based tax credits. “Workforce systems and other community partners may also choose to contribute funding for training, supplies or other aspects of apprenticeship programs,” the agency said.

Last year more than $55 million went out in American Apprenticeship Initiative grants, and Congress approved $90 million for growing and expanding apprenticeship programs, Harrison said. “This year they approved $95 million,” he said, adding that President Donald Trump issued an executive order to shred the paperwork and regulatory burden.

While there is specific funding earmarked by the government at all levels for the purposes of advancing or expanding apprenticeships, how much is available to individual employers can vary by geographic location.


The Labor Department’s National Office of Apprenticeship has set a goal of doubling and diversifying the number of apprenticeships by 2019. During a hearing on Capitol Hill in November, Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta said it is critically important to change the perception that college is the only pathway to a productive lifelong career.

“This is an issue that is so important. We should be growing apprenticeships in this nation,” Acosta said, adding that people should be encouraged to pursue job training that matches their interests and talents.

Several states are encouraging programs as well. In Kansas, Mike Beene, the executive director of Department of Commerce workforce services, said apprenticeship programs need to be expanded. “If a person can learn a craft or a skill or even competencies associated with a job, and have that model of earning a paycheck while you’re learning, I just think it makes sense for Kansas businesses as a way to attract and grow talent,” he said.


Registered apprenticeship training is distinguished from other types of workplace training by several factors. The participants can be either newly hired or already employed and must earn wages from employers during training, the DOL said. Programs must meet national DOL standards and provide on-the-job learning and job-related technical instruction.

Several industries have proven the success of apprenticeships. The DOL reported that registered apprenticeship programs offer access to 1,000 career areas, including software developers, engineers, pharmacy technicians, telecommunications technicians, aircraft technicians, mechanics, welders, insurance agents and truck drivers.

“Over 150,000 businesses have adopted Registered Apprenticeship, including UPS, Ford Motor Company, the United States Military, Werner Enterprises, CVS/Caremark Pharmacy and many others,” the DOL reported.

The AFL-CIO partners with several industries, including health care, construction, manufacturing, hospitality and aerospace, to promote apprenticeships. The programs benefit employers as well as the country, AFL-CIO said, noting that joint labor-management training programs in the building and construction industry contribute about $1.5 billion to the American economy every year.


Harrison said there are numerous ways of attracting apprentices. “One is to develop a successful military engagement program that interfaces with organizations, like Fastport and others, in order to find candidates.”

Other approaches include using workforce centers and word of mouth. “This happens quite often on apprenticeships because you have specialized skills,” Harrison said.

IIAR members interested in implementing an apprenticeship program can contact Harrison at (479) 231-9666 or dave.harrison@fastport. com for guidance.