Center for American Progress

RELEASE: CAP Proposes Policies to Expand Apprenticeships in the United States
Press Release

RELEASE: CAP Proposes Policies to Expand Apprenticeships in the United States

Read the report.

Washington, D.C. – Expanding the use of apprenticeships—highly effective training models—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, according to a new report released today by the Center for American Progress. The report, titled Training for Success: A Policy to Expand Apprenticeships in the United States takes a close look at America’s inadequate workforce training system and proposes drastically expanding the use of apprenticeships as a time-tested solution to this challenge.

“Apprenticeships are a win-win for businesses and workers alike. The apprenticeship model is incredibly flexible and can fit almost any industry,” said Ben Olinsky, co-author of the report and Senior Fellow at CAP. “Expanding access to these highly effective job training programs will better prepare the American workforce force to compete globally and strengthen our economy here at home.”

Apprenticeships—jobs in which an individual is paid to learn a set of skills through on-the-job training—have been shown to boost workers’ lifetime earnings and benefits by $300,000 and yield significant returns on investment for the businesses that sponsor them. That’s why many countries rely on them as a central component of their workforce training system. With about 358,000 apprentices in 2012, the United States had only 7 percent of the number of apprenticeships in England when adjusted for population size.

Expanding the U.S. apprenticeship system would help strengthen the nation’s economy, as research shows that the United States is not producing enough skilled workers to meet our future economic needs. By 2020, America is projected to experience a shortage of 3 million workers with associate’s degrees or higher and 5 million workers with technical certificates and credentials. Compounding our inadequate workforce development system, research shows that employers are now spending less time on training than they have in the past. Apprenticeships can help meet the demand from businesses, while offering workers higher wages and better employment outcomes.

In the report, authors Ben Olinsky and Sarah Ayers take a close look at South Carolina, which has increased its employer participation by 570 percent over the past six years largely by focusing on improving marketing to businesses. Building on that successful approach, Olinsky and Ayers propose a robust set of policies to rapidly expand apprenticeships nationally, including actions that require congressional action, those that could be implemented administratively by the president, and those that could be undertaken by states and the private sector. Recommendations include:

  • Improvements to marketing efforts to generate demand from businesses
  • Tax incentives to help businesses defray the cost of training apprenticeships
  • Competitive grants to support promising public-private partnerships seeking to expand apprenticeships
  • Improving access to workers by establishing an online database of openings and launching an initiative to bring recent high school graduates into apprenticeships
  • Improvements to research and data collection that will enhance our understanding of the economic benefits of apprenticeships and how to expand their reach to women and workers in nontraditional occupations

“Apprenticeships offer high school graduates a pathway to well-paying middle class jobs that does not require a four-year degree,” said Sarah Ayers, co-author of the report and Policy Analyst at CAP. “This is especially important today, as young people face skyrocketing college costs and record-high student-debt levels.”

Read the report: Training for Success: A Policy to Expand Apprenticeships in the United States by Ben Olinsky and Sarah Ayers

To speak with an expert on this topic, contact Katie Peters at or 202.741.6285.


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