Recently, I returned from SkillsUSA and the National STEM Leadership Conference to find that an AMT colleague discovered a copy of Apprenticeship Training Standards from May 1949 in AMT’s library and placed it on my desk (pictured).
Of course, AMT was called the National Machine Tool Builders’ Association when this document was published, but the timing of this document’s discovery has been uncanny. A number of new initiatives to strengthen apprenticeship programs in U.S. manufacturing have been announced in 2014 and 2015. I’ve written about some of these initiatives in this column previously, but with the reappearance of this document, the subject is worth visiting again. 

I thought it would be a useful exercise to read through this document. I found it quite valuable to glimpse into the mindsets of apprenticeships from some of the leading companies in our organization during a time when apprenticeship programs were such an important part of our education and training DNA. Companies that contributed to the document included Brown & Sharpe Mfg., Pratt & Whitney, Barnes Drill, DeVlieg Machine and The Warner & Swasey Company.

Technology has certainly changed since 1949, but the fundamentals taught in an apprenticeship program and the principles of the roadmap necessary for other companies to follow have improved and become even more formal. As an industry, we simply lost focus on apprenticeships over the past 25 years or so, but federal and state policies, and local initiatives are in place now to change that.
In December 2014, the administration and the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Secretary Perez announced an additional $100 million investment in apprenticeship programs and the Apprenticeship 2000 initiative gave way to ApprenticeshipUSA. In June, ApprenticeshipUSA officially partnered with Switzerland to advance vocational education, training and apprenticeship programs. This partnership will begin in key regions around the United States where Swiss companies have located manufacturing plants and plan to grow further.

Apprenticeship Training Standards also appropriately mentions the European influence on apprenticeship programs at the time of publication and earlier in the history of U.S. manufacturing. Looking back, we see that German, Austrian and Swiss companies are once again having a positive impact on U.S. manufacturing policy in this area.

The key takeaway from this document is for AMT member companies that are thinking about starting an apprenticeship program. You’re reminded to first rebuild the relationships you have with high schools, career, and vocational schools and community colleges in your local area.

From there, you have the Smartforce Development department to help, as well as the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) – the organization that your trade association has been a stakeholder in for the past 20 years.

NIMS created a new website,, designed to help answer your questions and provide you with a roadmap on how to build an apprenticeship program.   

If you have questions about how to get started yourself or how other AMT member companies are managing their apprenticeship program, give me a call at 703-827-5203 or send me an email at For more frequent updates about apprenticeships and other Smartforce Development initiatives, follow me on Twitter @GregoryAJones.