Industries including advanced manufacturing, health care, and information technology can use apprenticeship programs to build skilled labor forces. In order to create a robust apprenticeship system in the U.S., the government should work with employers to form industry-recognized credential programs that include on-the-job training. The Manufacturing Skills Certification System is a model for this sort of system.
Expanding apprenticeship, however, will require employers to understand its value. While today’s registered apprenticeship programs are high quality, few employers know what an apprenticeship entails or what competencies a potential employee who has completed an apprenticeship possesses.
Today more than ever, the United States requires new tools to equip workers with the skills employers need. Almost half of all U.S. employers report that they have a hard time filling jobs because candidates lack technical competencies.
Apprenticeship has proven to offer workers higher wages than other workforce development tools; it has also been shown to provide taxpayers with the greatest return on investment. But apprenticeship is an underutilized training tool in the United States. The Department of Labor administers a small system of 375,000 registered apprentices, and about 100,000 new apprentices start programs every year.
Registered apprenticeships provide on-the-job training but fail to offer a truly portable credential, while industry-recognized credentials are portable but do not offer on-the-job training. Therefore, combining the two has the potential to truly transform our workforce.