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Apprenticeship Design: Improving Career-Ready Competencies

By Paola Baglietto, Fatima Espiritu and Mary Knight, CareerWise

At its core, the CareerWise youth apprenticeship program is a competency-based model. Apprentices receive a set of competencies to develop and evaluations focus on how apprentices demonstrate progress.  

Apprentices are evaluated on two distinct sets of these competencies: occupational (specific to their job) and career-readiness (core soft skills). The latter are designed to help young adults integrate successfully into the workforce and develop durable skills that will ensure their career growth. 

Both the occupational and career-ready frameworks are built on a continuous feedback loop with industry and education partners to adapt the evaluations to tangible workplace demands  and better guide apprentices and employers to achieve successful completion. 

With that in mind, CareerWise took a nationwide approach to learn how to enhance and better support its Career-Ready Competency framework. The main objective is to guide better coaching conversations and ensure more equitable evaluation outcomes for young professionals and a more streamlined evaluation process for employers.

As a result of this research and feedback from employer partners, CareerWise is launching an improved Career-Ready Competency framework. This framework distills the original competency set from 16 to 8, utilizes more accessible language, and includes examples of proficiency. The new framework more accurately reflects industry needs and is more accessible to apprentices.

The 8 new competencies are designed in 3 buckets: Self-leadership (personal integrity and management), Work Habits (professionalism and work ethic) and Interpersonal (people and networks).

The upgraded Career-Ready Competency framework is based on research that includes McKinsey and Co., Jobs for the Future (JFF), the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), the Colorado Department of Education (CDE), and other pertinent research such as the Chicago University Competency Dictionary.

Let’s dive into an example. The previous competencies of ”Creativity / Innovation” and “Risk Taking” were separate before. The new model refines them from two individual competencies to a single competency with examples and guidance:

The new model also provides a guide on the level of support that is needed at every stage and gives specific indicators that can guide supervisors and apprentices to better understand the behaviors that can be observed for each proficiency level.

CareerWise will ensure that current apprentices experience a smooth transition to the new competency framework, translating and crosswalking their current evaluation results to the new benchmarks, and ensuring continuation of all data, including all progress that was previously made (specifically the levels of proficiency that had been achieved). 

Additionally, CareerWise plans to build resources and tools for supervisors to better guide the ongoing growth of apprentices in these competencies. Some of the materials will include apprentice-friendly proficiency examples, tracking tools and informational materials. The first set of supports will be available in June, with more help to be rolled-out during Q3 of 2022.