Making Apprenticeships Work


It seems like everyone’s talking about apprenticeships. Apprenticeships were the Trump Administration’s first postsecondary education initiative; in June 2017, President Trump signed an executive order aiming to use apprenticeships to train five million Americans who would otherwise be disconnected from the labor market. Currently, there are only about half a million apprentices in the US.

Why all the hoopla? Because research shows that apprenticeships provide students with a remarkable return on investment: students who complete apprenticeships earn nearly $250,000 more over the course of their careers than comparable students who don’t.

While apprenticeships are more common than you think—more than 150,000 companies have programs—one reason you may not have considered them is that 80 percent of American apprenticeships are in the traditional building and industrial trades, with a significant percentage sponsored by unions rather than employers. The most common apprenticeships in the US are electricians, plumbers, carpenters, and iron and steel workers.

And herein lies the problem. While policy makers love to talk about training welders, few parents who attended college and work in white collar jobs are excited about sending their child down an apprenticeship path that’s historically been blue collar, involving manual labor and union membership. So as a viable alternative to colleges, apprenticeships are still earning a failing grade.

Could a select number of smart policy changes significantly boost the future of apprenticeships? Today, University Ventures is publishing a whitepaper documenting five policy recommendations that could transform apprenticeships from yesterday’s news to a 21st century faster + cheaper alternative to college.