How to Expand U.S. Apprenticeships

If policymakers expand apprenticeships in the United States, they can create pathways to well-paying middle-class jobs for young Americans and help businesses meet the need for skilled workers.

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Apprenticeships are not a familiar concept to many Americans, but expanding the use of this highly effective training model can help our nation meet the demand for skilled workers, create pathways to well-paying careers for unemployed young workers, and give American businesses a competitive edge in the global marketplace. Apprenticeships have been a tried and true method of educating and training workers since the Middle Ages, and they continue to enhance productivity and boost workers’ earnings in many countries around the world today. At a time when too many American workers lack the education and training to secure well-paying, middle-class jobs, and American businesses increasingly rely on high-skill workers to innovate and expand, we believe that apprenticeships hold great promise for addressing our nation’s economic challenges. In this report, we will discuss America’s insufficient workforce training system, demonstrate that apprenticeships are a time-tested solution to our workforce training challenges, and propose a set of policies to expand apprenticeships while addressing the reasons they have not yet been widely adopted in the United States.

An apprenticeship is a job in which an individual is paid to learn a set of skills through on-the-job training. In the United States, a formal system of “registered apprenticeships” was created in 1937 by the National Apprenticeship Act and is overseen by the U.S. Department of Labor and the individual states. Under the system, a sponsor of an apprenticeship registers its program and its apprentices with the federal government or a delegated state agency. For each “apprenticeable” occupation, a set of requirements details the duration and/or competency standards necessary for completion. When an apprentice completes these requirements, the government issues a certificate of completion that then serves as a nationally recognized portable credential.

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