Can ‘earn and learn’ apprenticeships lead to ‘family-sustaining’ careers?

President Donald Trump has proclaimed Nov. 11-Nov. 17 to be 2019’s National Apprenticeship Week.

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“Encouraging the creation and expansion of apprenticeships is a cornerstone of my commitment to helping improve employment prospects for students and workers,” the president said in a statement, adding that his administration has allocated more than $300 million toward apprenticeships in 2019, which helped 240,000 new apprentices get hired through 3,300 new programs.

“We awarded nearly $184 million to the Scaling Apprenticeship Through Sector-Based Strategies grant program to encourage private-public partnerships in high-growth industries, including information technology, advanced manufacturing, and healthcare,” according to the statement. “We have also invested $160 million to expand the number of apprentices in Registered Apprenticeship programs nationwide, helping to increase the number and diversity of apprentices in every state.”

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Through workplace and classroom education, apprentices gain valuable knowledge and credentials, drastically improving their future career trajectory, according to the White House statement, which added that “apprenticeship programs enable Americans to simultaneously earn and learn while avoiding burdensome student loans.”

To date, the statement notes that more than 360 companies have committed to investing in over 14 million students and workers through the administration’s “Pledge to America’s Workers” program. Trump said his administration is also developing standards for industry-recognized apprenticeship programs, “which will assist workers in obtaining the knowledge they need to secure family-sustaining careers by taking advantage of high-quality, demand-driven opportunities.”

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Meanwhile, a new study from Accenture shows that a concerted effort by employers, educators and non-profit partners to build and promote apprenticeship programs has the potential to fundamentally change the professional trajectory for millions of Americans–and the economy as a whole.

The study, titled “Apprenticeships: From Community College to Promising Tech Career,”  finds that 80% of students recognize they will need further training, yet while apprenticeships offer such training, too few students know about them.

The findings in the report are based on an online survey of 1,000 students in U.S. community colleges, along with 200 academic and career counselors at these institutions, conducted between the end of June and early August 2019.

“Our survey shows students are eager for training that prepares them for jobs with higher earnings and better career potential,” the Accenture study notes, “but that many students feel their community college education fails to provide them with a pathway to in-demand jobs they often conclude are out of reach.”

Once students become aware of such programs, the study notes, they demonstrate a willingness to participate and community college counselors–who are already familiar with the benefits of apprenticeships–will help boost students’ awareness of their opportunities and work with employers to establish apprenticeship programs. But the study’s authors conclude that those counselors cannot act alone.

“Companies, counselors and community stakeholders all have an important role to play in our efforts to close the skills gap and transform the American labor market.”

Michael O'Brien
Michael J. O'Brienhttp://
Michael J. O’Brien is former web editor with Human Resource Executive®.