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Michigan To Start Apprenticeships to Develop Highly Skilled Educators

LANSING – The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) today joined the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO), 10 school districts in Saginaw County, Saginaw Valley State University, and the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) to establish a registered apprenticeship program to develop highly skilled educators in Michigan.

Registered apprenticeships for educators are a new route for those with a passion to serve children as teachers to master their craft while they work in the classroom and are mentored by veteran teachers.

“Registered apprenticeships are a proven pathway to prepare professionals in a multitude of careers, and we are enthusiastic to have them available now to help us address the teacher shortage for school districts across Michigan,” said State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice. “This is a new pathway into the teaching profession, one that will provide earn while you learn opportunities, substantial pre-teaching mentoring, and a great deal of experience with children prior to becoming a teacher. At the same time, the bar for entry into the profession will not be lowered. Aspiring educators will still need to earn a bachelor’s degree, to participate in an approved educator preparation program, and to pass the relevant Michigan Tests for Teacher Certification (MTTC). Registered apprenticeships will help us increase the overall quantity, quality, and diversity of Michigan’s teachers.”

“Through the Registered Apprenticeship program, the Michigan Department of Education is creating a pathway for school districts and educational institutions to address their talent needs while providing new, life-changing opportunities for our future educators,” said Susan Corbin, director of the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity. “We applaud our partners at MDE for embracing the earn while you learn apprenticeship program and launching an initiative that will drive success for students and educators throughout our state.”

The Saginaw Intermediate School District will work with Saginaw Valley State University and the following school districts to begin implementing the teacher apprenticeship program in Michigan:

  • Saginaw Public Schools
  • Saginaw Township Community Schools
  • Swan Valley School District
  • Merrill Community School District
  • Hemlock Public School District
  • St. Charles Community School District
  • Bridgeport Spaulding Community School District
  • Birch Run Area Schools
  • Frankenmuth School District
  • Saginaw ISD Head Start

"We are excited to begin registered apprenticeship programs for teachers in Saginaw County,” said Dr. Jeffrey Collier, superintendent of Saginaw Intermediate School District. “Registered apprenticeship programs have proven track records of producing strong outcomes for talented workforce development. This apprenticeship program offers opportunities for teacher candidates to advance their professional development, preparation, and experiential exposure within real, high-quality classroom environments with minimal cost investment. These future apprenticeship opportunities may better ensure that teacher candidates are professionally ready, supported through mentorship, and encouraged throughout their journey as they prepare to become our students’ best future teachers of tomorrow's school faculties."

“I am proud to be an educator in a state that recognizes the urgency in addressing the teacher shortage,” said Saginaw Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Ramont M. Roberts. “The registered teacher apprenticeship program will provide another layer of preparation for individuals who have the prerequisite skills to be a highly effective teacher yet lack the resources and formal training to receive the appropriate credentials. This is a fantastic opportunity to catapult educators who are currently in support roles into lead instructional/teaching roles. This will be a game-changer for Saginaw Public Schools relative to providing high-quality, committed, and rooted teachers to place in front of our students.”

The registered apprenticeship program does not change the requirements for entry into the teaching profession. Apprentices still will need to earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree, graduate from an educator preparation program, and pass a teacher certification test.

“As we prepare the next generation of teachers, apprenticeship programs provide new, viable pathways into the profession,” said Dr. James Tarr, dean of the Saginaw Valley State University’s College of Education. “This program honors valuable experiences and fosters the development of knowledge and skills essential for classroom success. We are thrilled to promote this innovative workforce development program to produce high-quality teachers who serve the children of Michigan.”

MDE will begin to build the apprenticeship model with stakeholders in intermediate and local school districts and post-secondary educator preparation programs, along with USDOL and LEO. A variety of post-secondary institutions have expressed support to work with MDE, along with the Michigan Education Association (MEA) and AFT Michigan.

“This program is an innovative way to help address the educator shortage in Michigan and can help complement other ongoing efforts to increase the ranks of trained, qualified teachers throughout our state,” said Paula Herbart, president of the Michigan Education Association. “Regardless of where they live, every child deserves to have a great teacher leading their classroom, and the registered apprenticeship program can help us make progress toward that goal. As a union of frontline educators, we at MEA are excited to partner with the Michigan Department of Education and other participants to help make this apprenticeship program a success, both through local collective bargaining and collaboration between officials and educators.”

“It’s no secret that Michigan is dealing with a teacher shortage, and recruiting more qualified educators is one of our biggest priorities,” said David Hecker, president of AFT Michigan. “By establishing this apprenticeship program, we will provide another pathway for talented, passionate individuals to gain the skills they need to teach effectively and complete their education requirements graduating from an educator program, all while being paid fairly for the work they do. Programs like this are a win for the entire education system, from aspiring educators able to pursue their careers to students who benefit from having more qualified educators to support them. Addressing the teacher shortage will take time, and a multifaceted policy approach, but creating apprenticeships is an important step forward for Michigan schools.”

Registered apprenticeships are an industry-driven, high-quality career pathway in which employers can develop and prepare their future workforce, and individuals can obtain paid work experience, and can receive progressive wage increases, classroom instruction, and a portable, nationally recognized credential. Registered apprenticeships are industry-vetted and approved and validated by the U.S. Department of Labor and a state apprenticeship agency, which in Michigan is LEO.

Michigan’s registered apprenticeship program for educators will use a residency-based model targeting various pools of candidates:

  • Students interested in pursuing a State of Michigan teaching certificate
  • Current school district support staff
  • Current school district stakeholders, such as community volunteers
  • Career changers

Registered apprentices “earn while they learn”; they take college coursework to become a teacher at the same time that they work in classrooms in a variety of roles, as they progress to the role and goal of classroom teacher.

College courses are paid for by the employing school that can take advantage of a variety of federal, state, and local funding streams to offset the employer’s costs. Wrap-around services are also provided to the apprentice as needed.

In some instances, an apprentice may come in with prior knowledge and experience, which is taken into consideration and applied to the process.  Apprenticeships are often a game changer, according to Dr. Rice, that levels the playing field for people who may have always wanted to become teachers but lacked the resources and supports. This increase in access to the profession, without lowering standards for entry, often results in more diverse workforces that better reflect the communities that teachers serve. 

The U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) and U.S. Department of Education (USED) issued a joint announcement in August that encouraged states to establish a registered apprenticeship program for teaching and to increase collaboration across workforce and education systems.

The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the National Education Association (NEA), and the National Governors Association (NGA) have each announced their support of the USDOL and USED announcement.

Michigan’s program is expected to have its first group of apprentices in the 2023-24 school year.