Teacher shortages have been a hot topic in Ohio for years. But the true size and scope of the problem didn’t begin to take shape until the Ohio Department of Education published in-depth data this spring confirming that fewer young people are entering the profession, teacher attrition rates have risen, and troubling scarcities exist in specific grades and subject areas.
Something needed to be done, and policymakers took a big step forward by using the state budget bill to implement several solutions aimed at addressing shortages. They include improving teacher pay, investing in Grow Your Own programs, and making teacher licensure more flexible. More recently, Governor DeWine unveiled another promising initiative: a teacher apprenticeship program.
Apprenticeship programs offer workers job-related classroom training and on-the-job learning experience under the supervision of an experienced mentor. These programs are widely considered to be a win-win for both employers and employees. Employers benefit from the opportunity to grow their own workforce, train employees how they want, and potentially reduce turnover costs and improve retention. Employees, meanwhile, learn valuable skills in both a classroom and work setting, get their foot in the door of a long-term career, are paid for their time, and typically avoid student debt. In Ohio, the new teacher apprenticeship model will largely be aimed at employees already working in schools—staff like teachers’ aides, librarians, and bus drivers. Randy Gardner, chancellor at the Ohio Department of Higher Education, told the media that the program is a way to help non-teaching staff who are interested in teaching “get that degree, [get] paid to be employed, and to help pay potentially the cost of that degree.”
Ohio isn’t the only state investing in teacher apprenticeships. Tennessee led the initial charge in 2022. With federal funding and support ramping up interest—and with national guidelines for K–12 teacher registered apprenticeships approved by the U.S. Department of Labor—twenty-one states now have at least one registered apprenticeship program for teachers. Ohio makes it twenty-two, as DeWine’s new initiative adds K–12 teaching to the state’s list of 163 registered apprenticeship occupations. The Ohio Departments of Education and Higher Education, along with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, collaborated to develop standards for the state’s teacher apprenticeship model, which aligns “leading practices in educator preparation and development with the rigors of a registered apprenticeship program.”
Specifically, the model empowers postsecondary teacher preparation programs and K–12 districts to establish partnerships that will offer apprenticeships as an additional career pathway into teaching. These apprenticeships will provide flexibility to teacher candidates with various levels of experience and schooling, provide credit for prior experiences that count toward instruction and on-the-job training requirements, and pair candidates with teachers who will model best practices. Participants will also be eligible to apply for the Grow Your Own teacher scholarships that were included in the budget, which provide up to $7,500 per year for four years to candidates who commit to teaching in a qualifying Ohio school for at least four years.
The state has already released the application for teacher preparation programs and districts interested in forming a partnership. It contains several important requirements worth mentioning, as they indicate what the state’s priorities are in regard to the teacher apprenticeship model.
First, the application notes that to be considered an Ohio registered apprenticeship, programs must adequately comply with the apprenticeship requirements of the Ohio Administrative Code. The program requirements section of the code mandates that apprentices receive at least 145 hours of related instruction and at least 2,000 hours of on-the-job training—well beyond what’s required for prospective teachers through field experiences (a minimum of 100 hours prior to supervised student teaching) and student teaching (a minimum of twelve weeks) at traditional preparation programs.
Second, partnerships must use the Ohio Standards for the Teaching Profession while developing on-the-job training experiences and evaluating whether apprentices have completed the training requirement. Apprentices must be proficient in each category before completing their apprenticeship.
Third, apprentices must be paid a progressively increasing schedule of wages based on a percentage of the local starting salary schedule for teachers. Wages must be equal to or higher than the pay rate for paraprofessional staff.
Lastly, to earn a teaching license while completing an Ohio teacher apprenticeship program, apprentices must meet several criteria. They include:
- Meeting state credential requirements—including passing the required Ohio Assessments for Educators—to become a licensed teacher.
- Fully completing related instruction.
- Fully completing a structured, on-the-job student teaching experience.
- Meeting any other criteria that partnerships may require as part of their apprenticeship program.
Taken together, these requirements make it clear that state leaders are attempting to forge a new path into the classroom without lowering expectations for teacher candidates. Even better, Ohio’s model honors what’s best about apprenticeships—namely, significant on-the-job training and paying apprentices for their time—while still giving preparation programs and districts the freedom to design their own initiatives. Obviously, it will take time for these efforts to bear fruit. But for Ohio, this is a huge step forward.