Building a Stronger Workforce by Expanding Registered Apprenticeships

Building a Stronger Workforce by Expanding Registered Apprenticeships

Nov 12, 2021
Logo for National Apprenticeship Week, November 15 - 21, 2021

The Build Back Better framework, which outlines top priorities of the Biden administration’s economic agenda, provides $6 billion to expand the registered apprenticeship system, develop new apprenticeship programs and models, and increase diversity and inclusion in the broader apprenticeship system. November’s National Apprenticeship Week is an opportunity to show how data and evidence can help states build capacity to expand apprenticeship and inform future policy and practice. In particular, evidence on the lessons learned from ongoing efforts to expand and diversify registered apprenticeship across the country is available in new research conducted by Mathematica, the Urban Institute, and Social Policy Research Associates.

For example, we examined how states used funds from State Apprenticeship Expansion grants, awarded to 36 states and one territory by the U.S. Department of Labor in 2016, to expand registered apprenticeship into non-traditional industries, improve the diversity of the apprenticeship candidate pool, and address challenges related to participation and program retention. This 2020 study suggests three strategies could help expand and promote equity in apprenticeship:

  • Leveraging partnerships across state agencies and other entities to build capacity for developing apprenticeships
  • Increasing the expertise of employer outreach staff 
  • Building diverse pipelines through pre-apprenticeship and community-based partnerships

States surveyed about efforts to expand apprenticeships said future expansion would require addressing three main challenges: (1) delays in registration, (2) delays in approval for new standards, and (3) occupational silos in apprenticeship expansion. We also found that:

  • 53 percent of states identified a lack of public understanding about how to enter the registered apprenticeship system as a major challenge to expansion.
  • 58 percent of states indicated a desire for technical assistance on marketing strategies to advance registered apprenticeship.
  • Overcoming misconceptions about apprenticeship remains a significant challenge, but experienced employer sponsors who can act as champions and advocates helped gain other employers’ trust.

Expanding and diversifying apprenticeship will require developing the pipeline through career readiness programs and pre-apprenticeship; educating employers about how to reach underrepresented groups; supporting apprentices by addressing barriers like transportation and child care; and creating mentorship opportunities.

Our 2012 study of Registered Apprenticeship programs in 10 states set the national benchmark for apprenticeship analysis, including landmark findings on wage gains and social benefits. Learn more about this work and Mathematica’s contributions to National Apprenticeship Week by visiting our website.