Registered apprenticeship offers a proven training model that prioritizes hands-on experience.

The Florida Department of Education oversees hundreds of apprenticeship programs, from well-known trades like electricians and plumbers to lesser-known opportunities like hotel or restaurant managers. However, teachers, professionals synonymous with education, have never had a registered apprenticeship pathway– until now.

This past weekend, the University of Florida graduated the first group of teacher apprentices in the state of Florida. UF had nine apprentices completing this pilot program, with six students graduating Spring 2024 and the remainder finishing over the summer. After graduation, these apprentices will transition into full-time, professionally certified teachers.

“This is a major milestone for the future of education across our state, as we recognize the graduates of the first teacher apprenticeship program in Florida,” said Kevin O’Farrell, chancellor for the Florida Department of Education’s Division of Career and Adult Education. “Registered apprenticeship programs offer apprentices hands-on training from experienced mentors, all while they get paid to learn. This is especially important in the education field – these teachers are graduating with the practical skills and real-world experience needed to excel in the dynamic classroom environment. As Florida continues to invest in teacher apprenticeship programs, more and more programs like this one will not only prepare our state’s educators for success, but ensure our students receive the high-quality education they deserve.”

University Wide Commencement
Spring 2024

UF prepared to pioneer this registered apprenticeship pathway after years of research into its potential benefits. By partnering with the Alachua County, Marion County and P.K. Yonge school districts, the university was able to develop a new collaborative approach to teacher training.

Practical teaching experience is already a cornerstone of UF’s traditional education programs. However, this is the first time that the university has engaged in a true “earn and learn” model tailored toward people actively employed full-time within a school setting.

Richard Belsky was one of those full-time employees who joined the apprenticeship program. After decades of working as a stained glass artist, he became a substitute teacher at the urging of friends and family. He acquired his temporary teaching certificate but knew he had a lot to learn on his journey to obtain his professional credentials.

“Coming from stained glass, we have very specific tools for very specific jobs and I knew I did not have those tools yet,” Belsky explained. Like most, he was familiar with the concept of apprenticeship but was not sure what to expect out of this new experience geared toward teachers.

Registered apprenticeship programs in Florida must fulfill five main requirements: employer involvement, structured on-the-job training, related technical instruction, rewards for skill gains, and industry-recognized credentials.

In this apprenticeship for teachers, the school districts served as the employers. UF collaborated with participating districts to select highly skilled and experienced mentor teachers and to develop and host mentor training. The technical instruction requirement was fulfilled through an online post-baccalaureate program that the university designed to meet the needs of both the schools and the apprentices themselves.