The Impact of Apprenticeship

The Impact of Apprenticeship

Solving the many unemployment problems in America has always been one of the top priorities of any political administration. No matter the political alignment, having a strategy that finds Americans a way into the workforce is essential. In fact, looking for alternate ways for Americans to enter the workforce was a major focus of our past election, with Hillary Clinton stating “College is crucial, but a four-year degree should not be the only path to a good job. We’re going to help more people learn a skill or practice a trade and make a good living doing it.” Donald Trump has also promised “to increase access to higher education and skills training.” Thankfully, President Obama has already planted the seeds of expansion for apprenticeship, a form of employment that combines on-the-job learning with additional training outside of the workplace. As the United States’ government continue to invest their time and money on apprenticeship, the program has shown that it is becoming a worthwhile investment in terms of money and effectiveness.

In a blog post by Forbes contributor Nicolas Wyman, he compiles the statistics that show how worthwhile the Registered Apprenticeship program has been. He states that “dollar for dollar, no workforce training method packs as much punch as apprenticeship.” In fact, “every federal dollar invested in apprenticeship programs brings a $27 return on investment.” However, return on investment should not be the most important identifier of a successful workforce strategy. The most important part of any workforce strategy is whether it can target the demographics that need jobs and how effective it is. To that point, Wyman writes that “apprenticeship is key to addressing youth unemployment, widening income disparities and the shrinking of the middle class.” Wyman also shows the advantages that come from being an apprentice, writing that “nine out of ten apprentices are employed immediately upon finishing their training, at an average starting salary of around $50,000 a year.” This is a major incentive for those that wish to forego university and enter the workforce.

Investing in Apprenticeship Inforgraph - Courtesy: Nicholas Wyman

Courtesy: Nicholas Wyman

With Registered Apprenticeship expanding and diversifying the types of programs offered, it is becoming a potential solution for many job seekers. Unfortunately, many of these job seekers and businesses still believe that apprenticeship can only be used in specific trade occupations when, in truth, “today’s apprenticeship programs are becoming more sophisticated and progressive, and can be found in many modern fields from engineering, sales and marketing, to computer programming and health care.”

A great representation for how far modern apprenticeship programs differ from what they were in the past has been South Carolina’s Apprenticeship Carolina program. This program is “comprised of six apprenticeship consultants” that work with employers to help make apprenticeship programs that are customized for their workplace. It has become the poster child for how to successfully implement apprenticeship into the fabric of a workforce strategy. In fact, the number of apprenticeship programs in South Carolina have increased 800% since 2007 – “from 90 to 809.” This figure also includes a significant rise in youth registered apprenticeship programs. With huge companies, like “BMW, Boeing, and Volvo”, backing their apprenticeship programs, they have successfully integrated apprenticeship throughout multiple industries. Even with a great apprenticeship strategy, South Carolina is still looking to offer more incentives for businesses to get on board with apprenticeship. South Carolina Senator Tim Scott (R) and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker (D) are looking to “incentivize public-private partnerships and provides a tax credit for employers who hire apprentices” through the Leveraging and Energizing America’s Apprenticeship Programs Act (LEAP Act). Not only is this a great tool to continue the momentum South Carolina has put into their apprenticeship model, it shows that Registered Apprenticeship has bipartisan support. With support from all sides and a history of effectiveness, Registered Apprenticeship looks to help answer many needs from job seekers and employers alike in the coming years.

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Bipartisan Support for Apprenticeship

Bipartisan Support for Apprenticeship

There are very few things that the two disparate political parties in the United States of America can agree upon. Whatever hot topic issues that comes up today, they seem to be diametrically opposed. Even though both parties agree on the fact that America needs more jobs and a stronger workforce, Republicans and Democrats disagree on many of the methods that should be taken in order to accomplish this task. However, one strategy they seem to be allied on is the development and implementation of new Registered Apprenticeship programs across the nation.

In a blog by the American Institute for Innovative Apprenticeship (AIIA), they talk about the Leveraging and Energizing Apprenticeship Programs (LEAP) Act, which “would offer tax credits of $1,000 to $1500 a year per apprentice for up to two years” for qualifying businesses. This bill was introduced by Senator Cory Booker, a Democrat from New Jersey, and Senator Tim Scott, a Republican from South Carolina. This has been another part of the government’s recent push for the expansion of Registered Apprenticeship. In addition to the LEAP Act, the Obama Administration has pledged millions of dollars in support of creating more apprenticeship opportunities here in the United States. Both sides of America’s political landscape see immense value in the Registered Apprenticeship program. It is a workforce solution that isn’t costly, but still “offers a long-term, evidence-base strategy that increases productivity by increasing skills.” In fact, research by Robert Lerman of the American University and Urban Institute (research found here) shows that “workers, employers, and the government can all gain from a robust apprenticeship system.” As we have seen with the increased funding for the Registered Apprenticeship program and the LEAP Act, the United States government is committed to increasing their investment in apprenticeship programs across the nation.

The LEAP Act helps to target a problem that the Registered Apprenticeship Program has had in expanding into other sectors beyond those available in trade careers. The blog says that, unfortunately, “the primary constraint to attaining a high level of apprenticeship training in the United States is stimulating large numbers of employers to offer apprenticeship.” By offering incentives for employers with the LEAP Act, the American apprenticeship model hopes to take inspiration from England’s apprenticeship model. England has been using apprenticeship as a workforce training method for many years. The AIIA blog states the through “national branding and marketing by Further Education college and by private training organizations,” not only did the number of employers increase, but also the diversity of said employers. According to the AIIA blog, England has 800,000 apprentices that make up around 2.9 percent of their workforce. In order to make the Registered Apprenticeship program such a focal point in employment, England spends 2.3 billion dollars a year. While America’s apprenticeship percentage is nowhere near England’s (the AIIA blog states we would need “about 10 times today’s level” to match), these changes in our approach to apprenticeship are encouraging signs. In fact, some states are already seeing marked improvement in the performance of their apprenticeship programs. One specific example that has seen improvement is South Carolina’s Apprenticeship Carolina program. With tax credit, state branding and marketing to individual employers, they have managed a “six-fold jump in the number of companies offering apprenticeships.” Hopefully this is indicative of trend as more and more states adopt more aggressive strategies for their apprenticeship programs.

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Get into STEM Careers with Apprenticeship

Get into STEM Careers with Apprenticeship

As tuition cost continue to rise and a 4-year degree is becoming increasingly and increasingly out of reach for many individuals, many are looking to other methods to get themselves into the workplace. While the path to a bachelor’s degree is still a profitable venture, many individuals do not wish to saddle themselves with the burden of student loan debt. Unfortunately, the Bureau of Labor statistics show that “most high-paying jobs require at least a bachelor’s degree for entry.” As the world becomes more technology-minded, many of these high paying jobs are STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) focused and their number has risen exponentially. Thankfully, many of these STEM focused companies are looking past the typical 4-year degree for more creative and effective methods to fill these positions. Instead of hiring those applicants with degrees, experience and certifications are becoming resume items that are much more desirable.

In a blog by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Christopher Harper and T. Alan Lacey, they stress that there is a growing recognition from STEM employers that “what workers really need are the right skills and credentials to fill specific jobs.” Many of the skills and proficiencies taught in the bachelor’s degree programs for these STEM jobs can be achieved through other, less expensive means. This includes certifications, apprenticeship programs, workshops, and online training. For an employee, there is great incentive to pursue these courses of study instead of pursuing a bachelor’s degree. Not only are these programs less expensive than a bachelor’s degree, they are much more flexible and allow for the individual to set their own pace. While getting a 4-year degree may be unattainable for some people, there are still many avenues one can take to achieve the skills needed to perform at STEM-focused employers. Finding these people is also essential for STEM companies. As they grow and develop, they will not be able to always hire a bachelor’s degree recipient. They will need to look outside the box to find suitable candidates for their job openings.

Charts by Bureau of Labor Statistics

Harper and Lacey go on to show the specific STEM jobs that are the fastest growing and those that have the most openings. As shown in the charts above, many of these careers appear in both the fastest growing and the most opening categories. This shows that, while many of these careers are growing at a substantial pace, employers are still struggling to find employees that can fill these positions.  That disconnect between the employers and their potential employees is commonly referred to as a skills gap. STEM employers are finding it much more difficult to staff positions that need the specific skills they are asking for. Thankfully, one way employers are combating this gap is by adopting a Registered Apprenticeship program into their company, with Harper and Lacey stating that “more employers are creating apprenticeship programs to train employees on the job.” As a tool that trains employees for the workforce, it not only allows them to work while earning a living, it gives them the skills to help them advance in a career they are interested in. Employers are also subject to amazing incentives when they implement a Registered Apprenticeship program. Not only are they training their employees with the exact skills they need, apprenticeship has also been shown to increased productivity and reduce turnover. It is a win-win program for both employees and employers that really looks to help fill STEM careers with individuals that are motivated to grow and learn as employees.

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