Apprenticeship: FAQs

What is an apprenticeship and how do they generally work?

An apprenticeship is a combination of on-the-job training and related classroom instruction through which workers learn the practical aspects of a highly skilled occupation. Apprenticeship programs typically are sponsored by individual employers,

joint employer and labor groups, and/or associations. Nearly 900 occupations are approved for apprenticeships. Most programs require four years and at least 8,000 hours to complete. A large chunk of those hours, say 6,000 hours, are devoted to on-the-job work experience under the supervision of a journey level craft person or a trade professional. The remaining hours are the related classroom instruction, usually provided at a community college or apprenticeship classes.

 

How does an apprentice typically start out?

Most apprentices must be at least 18 years of age and possess a high school diploma or its equivalent. Because an individual must be a full-time or near full-time employee of the company to which he/she is apprenticed, he/she will earn a wage while they acquire on-the-job training.

 

What credentials does an individual earn through an apprenticeship?

When the apprentice successfully completes the apprenticeship, that person will receive a Certificate of Completion from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Apprenticeship,  recognized throughout the United States.

What is the objective of the BFAAM Apprenticeship Program?

The objectives of the BFAAM Apprenticeship Program are to meet the federal requirements for the industry, help ensure wage progression follows on the job work experience progression as required by the federal statute, and train apprentices to give them the tools and information they need to sit for and pass the NICET Level II test. Once they pass that test and achieve NICET Level II certification in Fire Alarm Systems, they no longer need to remain in the BFAAM Apprenticeship Program. With NICET Level II certification, the apprentice becomes eligible to take the Fire Alarm Specialty Technician (FAST) exam administered by LARA. Passing the FAST exam and paying the required fees results in licensure as a Fire Alarm Specialty Technician.

 

Why did BFAAM create its Apprenticeship Program?

Public Act 􀀗􀀓􀀚407 of 2016􀀔, also known as the Skilled Trades Regulation Act, requires individuals installing, altering, repairing, servicing or maintaining a fire alarm system to be a Licensed Journey or Master Electrician, a Licensed Fire Alarm Specialty Technician, or a Registered Apprentice working under the direct supervision of a licensed individual. Fire alarm licensing requirements have been in effect since June 30, 1992.

 

What does this mean for the fire alarm industry in Michigan?

The Electrical Division of the State Bureau of Construction Codes (within the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs [LARA]) announced a schedule when enforcement of the various requirements will begin. Beginning April 1, 2009, LARA enforced jobsite ratios for licensed individuals to apprentices. For our industry, that means a maximum of 2 apprentices to 1 fire alarm technician as the acceptable ratio. Beginning August 1, 2010, LARA began enforcement of the requirement that apprentices be enrolled in an approved training program.

 

BFAAM had to act to make sure the industry was compliant and that is why BFAAM created the Apprenticeship Program?

Under the Skilled Trades Regulation Act, an individual employed as a fire alarm specialty apprentice technician must register as an apprentice within 30 days after employment. The LARA Electrical Division will issue a certificate of registration to a

person seeking registration upon satisfactory proof of the person's participation in a bonafide approved apprenticeship training program. The BFAAM program will enroll fire alarm apprentices in a US Department of Labor database, and the State Electrical Division will check that database prior to issuing certificate of registration.

 

How does the BFAAM program meet US Department of Labor requirements?

The BFAAM Apprenticeship Program has been approved, authorized and certified by the US Department of Labor.

To apply for the apprenticeship program, BFAAM had to demonstrate its program included qualifications for apprenticeships, a term of the apprenticeship (2 year program or 4 year program, for example), a schedule of on-the-job training, a schedule of classroom training, skill progression of the apprentices, and wage progression of the apprentices. The BFAAM program met all those requirements and was officially approved by the US Department of Labor on October 19, 2010.

BFAAM coordinates the overall apprenticeship program, sponsors and hosts the classroom trainings, keeps track of the paperwork, registers both sponsoring employers and their apprentices, and provides the certificates of completion.

 

What does this mean for fire alarm companies in Michigan?

First, because BFAAM offers an approved training program, fire alarm companies in Michigan can apply with BFAAM as can their apprentices. The BFAAM Apprenticeship Program provides for a two year apprenticeship program with a "Work Process Schedule" based on learning skills required for NICET Level II Certification in Fire Alarm Systems. The employer provides the on-the-job training and time for classroom training. The program provides the required classroom training for the apprentices. There is minimal paperwork for the employer. The employer simply signs a one page "Employer Participation Agreement." The employer establishes the wage rates and wage progression schedule, and determines apprentice progress and completion of objectives.

 

What does this mean for fire alarm technicians and employees?

In order to perform any work on a fire alarm system, an individual must either be licensed or a registered apprentice under the direct supervision of a licensed individual. Individuals desiring to register as an apprentice must document their enrollment in a formal apprenticeship training program approved by the LARA Electrical Administrative Board. The BFAAM apprenticeship program is a 4,000 hour program (2 years) with 4 periods with specific objectives covered in each period. The ultimate objective is for the apprentice to pass NICET II and obtain a Michigan FAST license on completion of program.

So the employee must complete the two year apprenticeship program, take and pass both NICET Level I and II certification exams, obtain NICET Level II certification in fire alarm systems, take and pass the Fire Alarm Specialty Technician licensing exam, and obtain the FAST license.

 

How do I get started in the Apprenticeship Program?

The employer registers with BFAAM as a participating employer and then registers the apprentices who wish to be enrolled in the apprenticeship program.

After that, the employer will provide the on-the-job training, make sure the employee is progressing, follow their written wage progression scale as the apprentice reaches the pre-defined experience and skill levels, and allow for apprentices to take the classroom training. Generally the wage and skill progression is on a 1,000 hour (6 month) schedule, where the apprentice needs to demonstrate mastery of defined skills, and when the employer certifies the progress, the wage rate is increased according to the employers schedule. Typically an employer identifies the wage rate for a FAST licensed technician, and a percentage of that wage rate at the 6, 12, 18 and 24 month intervals of the apprenticeship program.

The apprentice needs to show progress at work, complete the required hours, take the classroom instruction, and ultimately pass the NICET exams and FAST test.

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