top of page
  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Apprenticeships fail to launch in the U.S.

Ninety-two percent of Americans like the idea of apprenticeships, according to a recent American Staffing Association survey, and 62 percent say apprenticeships make people more employable than going to college.


Two-thirds of high school students say they want to learn on the job, through internships or apprenticeships or via or hands-on learning in a lab or classroom.


But apprenticeships have failed to launch in the U.S., says Ryan Craig of Achieve Partners, author of Apprentice Nation. In a conversation with Class Disrupted's Michael Horn and Dianne Tavenner, he blames too little federal funding, too many federal regulations and a dearth of incentives for employers.


For every dollar of taxpayer support a U.S. apprentice receives, a college student gets $50, he says.


The Department of Labor isn't funding intermediaries, such as staffing agencies, who can convince employers to hire and pay inexperienced workers, says Craig. The grants go to community colleges and workforce boards, who "develop the curriculum for the formal training, the related technical instruction (RTI)." Then, they "wait for an employer to come along and say, 'Wow, if only I could find curriculum for the RTI, I’d launch my own apprenticeship program'.”

In Britain, which has greatly expanded apprenticeships, intermediaries like Multiverse go to big companies and offer to set up and run a "turnkey" apprenticeship program. They say: "All you need to do is put this apprentice on your payroll at the reduced apprentice wage." All the other costs are covered by the government.
In the U.S., Multiverse gets no government funding. They go to employers and say: "It’s going to cost you $15,000 per apprentice in program fees."

To make it worse, the Department of Labor announced new apprenticeship regulations, he says. They amount to "800 pages of new hoops that employers would have to jump through in order to register an apprenticeship program with no incentives whatsoever to do so."


Many apprenticeship programs exist only on paper, says Craig. The Department of Labor created a data base of apprenticeship programs not in the construction trades. There are 6,000 programs listed. Only 200 are real programs that are hiring people.


Demand is very high. Every time his company, Achieve Partners, hires for a tech or health-care program, "we have 100, 200, 300 applicants" for every position. That means there are few opportunities for recent high school graduates.


Tavenner asked high school interns to contact apprenticeship programs in California to see how many were hiring. They emailed 100 programs. Only 30 responded, says Tavenner, and many of the responses just redirected them to the website, which said to send an email. "When they actually talked to people, they were often told 'It says 18, but we don’t really want 18 year olds'.”


Craig would like to see career exploration and career tech education in middle schools and high schools, so students would see they have more than one path to a decent job. But they need a shot at real "learn and earn" options.


"College for all" hasn't worked well for disadvantaged students, he says. If they complete a degree in a non-technical field, they're likely to be underemployed and in debt.


"You have almost half the country who sort of sees this bright, shining digital economy, but feels like these jobs are out of reach because they’re told that they need to run the gauntlet of a four year degree, which can be five or six years in many cases, and with no guarantee of any employment outcome," he says. "And they just feel like it’s unaffordable and unrealistic and life’s going to get in the way, so why bother?"


The "radically pragmatic" Progressive Policy Institute also is a fan of apprenticeships: Here's Strengthening America's Workforce, which calls for creating four million apprenticeships, an eight-fold increase.






176 views7 comments

7 Comments


superdestroyer
Feb 02

There is no funding stream for apprenticeships or even internships where the worker actually develops skills. Most employers want deadringers for new employees who are ready to be productive and profitable from day one.

Like

buy
Jan 31

There are pathways that, perhaps, aren't being counted here. I met a recent high school graduate who is working on ambulances, getting his EMT certificate, then aiming at becoming a fire fighter. He said every step of his training is funded. It's a built, paid pathway, but likely does not count as an apprenticeship.


Ann in L.A.

Like
superdestroyer
Feb 02
Replying to

Very doubtful. He would not even be on the ambulance unless he has his EMT certificate and is working to becoming a paramedic. Most such services are short of people who fill out their schedule. Why waste resources training a new perform who can walk away tomorrow? There are good things and bad things about outlawing noncompete clauses in employment contracts but apprenticeships pay a huge price.

Like

Bruce Smith
Bruce Smith
Jan 31

In the Swiss state, which has the best vocational education & training in Europe (and probably the whole world), the apprenticeships typically start at age 16, by which age most general secondary education is finished, with youth attending secondary schools mainly to finish their language learning, depending upon the region; supranational government beyond its federal state level has been rejected, along with the hundreds of pages of external regulations, with employer guilds, supported by government coordinators, taking the lead in establishing the apprenticeships, in a VET approach that attracts twice as many youth as does the general education of the universities.

Like

R Hammond
R Hammond
Jan 31

I live in Germany and have viewed the way it works here. I'll just say...by age 14....the apprentice kids exit regular school and the system works. But they live in an urbanized area where bus/trams are part of the situation. You also have a pay-scale going on where the kid is making 'some' money while in apprentice training. The negative? You have some kids who need a vast amount of coaching to stay with the program....with some of them never getting the certificate.

Like
m_t_anderson
Jan 31
Replying to

Seems like every track, academic or trades, has some folks who just can't cut it. Any idea what happens to kids who bail out of an apprenticeship? Are they stucky with lots of debt? And where do they go from there?

Like

m_t_anderson
Jan 31

And yet here in San Antonio we have home services companies advertising paid apprenticeships on TV every single day. My electricians badger me about finding them guys who want to do so.


I don't think the problem is Federal funding. More to the point is the relentless badgering from the army of spinster schoolmarms who've convinced two generations that a college degree is the only road to success.

Like
bottom of page