The United Services Military Apprenticeship Program (USMAP) – Most service members and supervisors have a weak or no understanding of the program

The United Services Military Apprenticeship Program (USMAP) accounted for nearly one in four Registered Apprenticeships in the United States as of 2013. The 2008–13 growth in USMAP from 51,000 to nearly 88,000 apprenticeships offsets part of the sharp decline in civilian apprenticeships over the same period. Currently, about one in four enlisted Sailors and one in fourteen Marines participates in USMAP. One of the program’s major accomplishments is that it has registered about 100 occupations with the Office of Apprenticeship in the US Department of Labor (DOL) that are related to civilian fields.

The scale and growth of USMAP encouraged the US DOL to conduct a study of the program’s operations and the feasibility of an impact evaluation. This report presents the findings of the study as conducted by L&M Policy Research and the Urban Institute. In undertaking the analysis, the L&M- Urban team interviewed key staff members involved with USMAP operations. In addition, the team conducted 11 focus groups at two Navy and two Marine Corps bases with USMAP apprentices, USMAP completers, and USMAP supervisors.


First, service members report that completing an apprenticeship brings little gain to participants while they remain in the Navy or Marine Corps. Earning an apprenticeship certificate offers some advantage for promotions. However, since the program largely documents the skills that are embedded in standard training, achieving the apprenticeship credential typically provides only modest advantages over those in similar occupations without the credential.

Second, USMAP documents the skills and experience service members routinely attain in the military. All service members attend classes to prepare for their occupational assignments and all are coached as they transition to working in the field. To complete their apprenticeships, service members mainly document the mix of work experiences on various tasks that are part of their normal assignment. In some cases, they add hours of specialized work experience beyond their normal assignment. Judging from the focus group reports, the amount of added work experiences varies but is rarely more than 10– 20 percent of their overall training.

Third, apprentices and supervisors display only a limited understanding of the purposes of USMAP. Perhaps because of too few resources allocated to USMAP, service members are provided with very limited or no orientation to the program. Often, potential apprentices are told that USMAP can be beneficial and that the only cost is writing down the hours devoted to various tasks they are performing in any event. Little or no information is provided on exactly how USMAP certifications are relevant to promotion or to civilian employers. Supervisors generally expressed a lack of orientation as well. However, a few supervisors reported extensive efforts to ensure high credibility for apprenticeships by rigorously checking that apprentices demonstrate skills in each task area specified by Work Process Schedules.

Fourth, again perhaps because of a lack of resources, USMAP has not communicated extensively with private employers to show how they can benefit from hiring apprenticeships completers in specific fields. The limited communication with private employers weakens USMAP’s ability to adapt work processes to meet demand in the civilian sectors. The absence of close civilian employer links is especially striking, given that the main value added of USMAP is to document skills in occupational specialties that are used widely in the public and private civilian sectors. One incentive for civilian employers to establish apprenticeships in fields related to USMAP occupations is the GI Bill benefits available to veterans. USMAP could encourage USMAP participants (including noncompleters) to use their GI Bill benefits to complete these civilian apprenticeships.

Fifth, although definitive data following entering apprentices through completion are lacking, the evidences suggests rates below 50 percent. In FY2013 and FY2014, about 18,000 completions took place or about 9,000 per year. Entrants in FY2010 and FY2011 amounted to 67,000 or about 33,500 per year. Using these annual figures, one finds just over one completer for every four entering about three years earlier. These numbers may underestimate the completion rates since completion may take more than three years in the military. Focus group comments indicate that weak initial communication, the limited use of completions for moving up within the service, few private employer links, and administrative barriers probably all contribute. Among the administrative barriers reported by USMAP participants were exiting the military prior to completion, changes in duty stations, deployments outside the country, and transfers outside their rating or MOS. In addition, our focus groups reveal that some service members enroll but never actually participate in the program; this factor could bias downward estimated completion rates.

Notwithstanding the challenges faced by USMAP, the program is well-placed to serve a critically important purpose, if sufficient resources were forthcoming. Veterans and employers both cite the difficulties that arise in translating skills and experience gained in the military to civilian employers. USMAP could play a significantly larger role in verifying how the skills that service members learn in their military occupation applies to civilian occupations. Currently, even most service members and supervisors have a weak or no understanding of the program, partly because USMAP has few resources, most of which are dedicated to running the program.

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Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at  The United Services Military Apprenticeship Program (USMAP): implementation study and feasibility of an impact study

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