“All schools should be making this a priority. It should be across the board,” says Caldwell University business student Crystal Zamora of her human resources apprenticeship program. Zamora is the first federally registered human resources apprentice in the U.S. thanks to a partnership with the Employers Association of New Jersey.
Zamora, who is majoring in business administration and minoring in human resources, has worked in HR for the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey where among her duties she assisted with payroll and planned a wellness program, and she is currently working in HR at Mott MacDonald, a national engineering firm in Iselin, New Jersey. “The companies I have had the honor of working with have given me such invaluable experiences,” she said. The networking has been one of the highlights of the apprenticeship. “There are so many professionals who are willing to help me.”
Apprenticeships are different than internships since students have the opportunity to work for two to three years immersing themselves in the business experiences. John Sarno, president of EANJ, says most of the students, like Zamora, are the first in their families to attend college and they are “totally committed to their career development, working and attending classes full-time, a long-term commitment that requires the utmost endurance.”
Zamora, who will graduate in December and continue in Caldwell’s MBA program, is applying concepts she learned in the classroom to “real life experiences” as she is exposed to areas of HR like the Affordable Care Act and Occupational Safety and Health Administration reporting, bargaining agreements, recruitment and promotion, and harassment issues. EANJ has given her the opportunity to attend classes on human resources administration and law and compensation.
The US Department of Labor is promoting apprenticeships following the 2017 executive order to expand the programs. According to the US Department of Labor, nationally registered apprenticeships are becoming increasing available with reportedly 585,000 in 2018 compared with 375,000 in 2013. Graduates who have had apprenticeships are attractive to employers because they have on the job experience.
Sheila O’Rourke, Caldwell’s vice president of institutional effectiveness and member of EANJ’s board, is happy that Caldwell is one of the first to embrace this way of giving students more in-depth work experiences. “Crystal worked in our Human Resources office at Caldwell University before she started her apprenticeship. There, I had the pleasure of getting to know her, and to witness firsthand her eagerness to learn and her strong work ethic. Crystal will be an asset to any HR office lucky enough to employ her.”
Zamora recommends apprenticeships to students in any majors for their personal and professional development. “I hope more of these apprenticeship programs come to life,” she said, because it gives students solid experience and “enhances the connection” between class instruction and the field work.
Virginia Rich, associate dean of the School of Business and Computer Science, says the program is a terrific opportunity for employers to groom a potential employee to meet their firm’s unique needs and is one of the best active learning experiences a student could have. “Through industry experience, the lessons we teach in the classroom are reinforced in a tremendously meaningful way. And the employers benefit from the valuable work apprentices provide.”
Zamora is grateful to Rich and business faculty member Helen McGowan for introducing her to the program. “They have guided me throughout the entire experience.” She knows it has put her on the right path. “I have realized this is something I would love to do and a career I could see myself happy in.”