Starting an Apprenticeship Program

Is your company in need of more sprinkler fitters? Have you always wanted to have an apprentice program in your company? Have you wondered how others were able to start one? Read on for information to help you on the pathway to a sprinkler fitting apprentice program. Training personnel is critical to proper installation of fire sprinkler systems. Good labor is often said to be ‘hard to come by’. However, investing in your labor force helps the productivity of the jobs and motivation among your team. A sprinkler fitting apprentice program is made up of education and practice to gain the knowledge and experience needed to do the job. Here are the steps to create a successful program:
  • Creating an Apprentice Program
    1. Determine the Type of Program
    2. Contact DOL
    3. Register the Program
  • Successful Apprentices
  • Educating Assistance

You can determine your state’s apprenticeship registration requirement using the DOL link below.


We all know the weakest link in the chain of success for this industry is a lack of qualified and trained people. In fact, I recently had a member tell me that they have such a hard time finding people to hire, they now encourage long-haired, freaky people to apply. Yes, there are members who could grow at a faster pace with better funding or working capital, but, at its core, the Achilles heel for most AFSA members continues to be qualified field labor and well-trained layout technicians. I’m sure many of you are tired of hearing (or reading) me beat this drum. What many of you may not know is that I am

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Bob Caputo

Bob Caputo

President, AFSA

Learn About Starting an Apprentice Program

Apprentice programs are registered with the Department of Labor (DOL). This can be done at a Federal and/or State level depending on your state’s registration requirements. You can determine your state’s apprenticeship registration requirement using the DOL link below.

Find your state’s registration requirement and regional contact:

Each employer will need to have a standard that sets the guidelines for the registered apprenticeship program (RAP).  In order to assist with this process, AFSA has a National Guideline Standard (NGS) registered with the DOL for sprinkler fitting.  Included in the standard are details for subjects that need to be covered in the On-the-Job Learning (OJL) and Related Technical Instruction (RTI).  This standard can be adopted by an employer working with your regional Apprenticeship Training Representative (ATR) designated by the DOL.

Your DOL representative will be able to access the AFSA registered NGS documents that you need to file.  There will be a small amount of information needed, such as contact information and wages (as they vary by geographical market), but the representative will guide you through those details.  Upon completing this process, the employer will receive a Federal registration number for their sprinkler fitting apprenticeship program.

If state registration is desired, then the next step is to contact the state’s Office of Apprenticeship.  They will guide you through the state process, which can vary a bit from one state to another.  Many states have a simplified approach once you have a federally recognized program, allowing for minimal paperwork to file for state recognition too.

Upon receiving registration numbers from federal or state agencies, your program is live and running.  Apprentices in your program must complete both On-the-Job Learning (OJL) and Related Technical Instruction (RTI).  The hours devoted to each of these need to be tracked by the employer to demonstrate completion. Some employers also choose to execute a promissory note to protect the investment in formal training.

Many have started as an apprentice and did not stay to achieve the journeyman title. Skilled labor is not for everyone, which is commonly shown in the dropout rate between Level 1 (first year) and Level 2 (second year).

Choosing the right candidate is the first step. This is never an easy task and even with the best human resource practices, may still not work out. That is the reason behind a probation period called out in the NGS. In general, a few characteristics to make sure are included on your list are: team attitude, enjoys working with tools, understands measurements, and good communication skills.

When the candidate and employer are ready for enrolling as an apprentice, it is important to formally sit down and understand what that entails for each party. The OJL is a progression of knowledge and skills over the 4 years and depending on their starting experience some tasks may be familiar and others may be foreign. The accompanying education is approximately 150 hours per level (or year). The education supports the activities commonly performed along with the background and component knowledge to effectively perform sprinkler fitting duties.

One insight that has come to light working with the AFSA training programs for apprentices is that if the education is important to the employer, it shows in the effort put forward from the apprentice.  Some employers do incentivize the completion of levels to help motivate steady progress and completion in the anticipated timeframe.

This is where AFSA can help.  We have two options available to assist with the education of sprinkler fitting apprentices. The first is our traditional option referred to as curriculum. This is self-paced training in which the employer works with the apprentices to provide the formal education. The textbooks and module assessments are provided by AFSA. The second is our newer option, Virtual Instruction Program (VIP). Here AFSA provides the formal education through live webinars, along with the textbooks, assessments, and additional resources.  This can alleviate senior staff from teaching responsibilities while providing a steady pace for the information completing the education component for each level in a 10-month period.

Follow the links in the above paragraph for detailed information on each of the programs.

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