Can Apprenticeships Work within the US? Employers In search of New Expertise Pipelines Take Notice


Many American corporations have made a four-year diploma a default qualification for entry-level jobs, elevating an costly college schooling—with a smattering of internship expertise—above paths which may put together younger expertise for immediately’s workforce higher.

In a brand new report, Joseph Fuller, Professor of Administration Follow at Harvard Enterprise College, examines an alternate route for American youngsters and firms alike: The apprenticeships well-liked in lots of European nations. Wanting intently at a profitable US apprentice program through which highschool college students decide to work part-time whereas in class with the choice to hitch the corporate after they graduate, Fuller’s evaluation finds that three-quarters of employers wind up proud of their trainees and two-thirds of apprentices go on to varsity or profession.

“Employers see an actual profit, and contributors find yourself pursuing an choice that’s correlated with completely different pathways to success,” says Fuller, who can also be the co-director of HBS’ Managing the Way forward for Work undertaking.

Apprenticeships are uncommon exterior the constructing trades within the US. Considerations abound that they pigeonhole college students and consign them to jobs with out a lot alternative. However, because the hiring market continues to show difficult, and employers throughout the spectrum decide to various hiring practices, apprenticeships might create a pipeline for homegrown expertise.

“It raises quite a lot of issues amongst some lecturers and a few dad and mom that you’re successfully monitoring college students, saying that some youngsters are simply not faculty materials, and thus contravening the script of the American dream,” says Fuller, who wrote the report together with Rachel Lipson, director of the Harvard Mission on Workforce; Farah Mallah, a doctoral scholar at Harvard Graduate College of Training; Girish Pendse, who’s pursuing a Grasp of Public Administration diploma at Harvard Kennedy College; and Rachel Snyder, a candidate for a Grasp of Public Coverage diploma at Harvard Kennedy College.

Employers have generally balked on the apprenticeship packages, scared off by the crimson tape of implementation, and anxious that the added funding to coach younger folks could not provide sufficient of a return. The report, nevertheless, gives a really completely different image of apprenticeships that probably alleviates issues of each dad and mom and employers, specializing in the success story of CareerWise, an apprenticeship program carried out in Colorado in 2017.

School for all?

Fuller, who’s college co-director of the Harvard Mission on Workforce, says that “the US has had a rallying cry of ‘faculty for all’ within the final 30 years. It’s an awesome ambition.”

“Now we have this nationwide narrative: You’ve obtained to go to varsity to make it in America. You’re a non-person when you don’t. That’s telling 60 p.c of children they’re failures.”

The numbers, nevertheless, inform a special story. Amongst all American adults, solely 34 p.c attended a four-year college; amongst 18-year-olds, that quantity rises to solely 40 p.c.

“Now we have this nationwide narrative: You’ve obtained to go to varsity to make it in America. You’re a non-person when you don’t,” says Fuller. “That’s telling 60 p.c of children they’re failures.”

On the similar time, faculty enrollment is on the decline, with the US undergraduate inhabitants having dropped by almost 1.4 million college students, or 9.4 p.c because the COVID-19 pandemic’s onset. The scholar debt disaster is inflicting extra younger folks to assume exhausting in regards to the worth of a four-year diploma.

Apprenticeships at work

Fuller and his colleagues examined information from CareerWise with the enthusiastic help of Colorado’s then-governor John Hickenlooper. It supplies encouraging proof that for the massive share of scholars who usually are not headed to varsity, apprenticeship can present a satisfying transition to well-paying jobs in finance, IT, manufacturing, and different fields.

Nearly all of contributors in this system start apprenticing of their junior yr of highschool. Every first-year apprentice works 16 hours per week throughout the college yr.

Fuller and colleagues tracked 232 CareerWise apprentices throughout 2017 and 2018 and located that of these finishing this system:

  • 20 p.c continued with their employer
  • 17 p.c switched to a brand new employer
  • 27 p.c left employment to attend faculty or one other post-secondary schooling program
  • 22 p.c returned to highschool
  • 5 p.c had been neither working nor in class

“And, they achieved these outcomes for apprentices, whereas beating the benchmark for productiveness reported by employers by the system usually cited because the gold commonplace, Switzerland,” Fuller says. “The information helps that CareerWise is working for the apprentices and their employers alike.”

Since one choice after the apprenticeship is faculty, CareerWise appears to increase contributors’ alternatives moderately than restrict them. “It diffuses one of many knee-jerk suspicions or complaints about apprenticeship, which is that it channels folks into the company abyss and denies them the chance for larger schooling,” Fuller notes.

How apprenticeships work greatest

Wanting additional into the info, Fuller and his colleagues discovered that not all college students succeeded on the similar charge.

  • Structured packages. Members had been 26 p.c extra prone to full federally registered apprenticeships—which should meet extra stringent pointers—and had been 19 p.c extra prone to end if they’d a devoted supportive supervisor.
  • Some fields work higher. College students had been additionally extra prone to full apprenticeships within the monetary companies and IT industries, versus enterprise operations and well being care. Within the former fields, Fuller speculates, apprentices are given extra discrete duties which can be simpler to comply with. That doesn’t imply that the latter fields aren’t candidates for apprenticeship, he provides, solely that additional care should be taken to offer extra construction.
  • Not all college students succeed equally. College students from poor households usually tend to give up within the first yr of this system. Black college students had been additionally extra prone to drop out than white college students. A few of the disparity could should do with Black college students being much less prone to apply for apprenticeships in fields like Superior Manufacturing and IT, which have excessive retention charges, says Fuller, who suggests extra focused steerage and outreach to shrink the hole.

In recent times, CareerWise has begun to increase, with new packages in cities together with New York and Washington, DC, in addition to rural places in Indiana and Michigan. Regardless of some caveats, Fuller says that the preliminary information supplies justification for a wider acceptance of apprenticeships, and promising proof they could be a viable new pathway to a vivid future.

You May Additionally Like:

Suggestions or concepts to share? Electronic mail the Working Information group at

Picture: iStockphoto/sturti


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here