A photo of the panelists at Further Together's session on advancing equity in apprenticeship. From L to R, Amaya Garcia, Megan Baird, Dr. Kayla Elliott, and April Ambrose.
Amaya Garcia, Megan Baird, Dr. Kayla Elliott, and April Ambrose

The week of May 5-11, 2024 is  National Youth Apprenticeship Week, during which public and private sector partners across the country recognize and highlight the benefits and value of Registered Apprenticeship program opportunities for youth ages 16–24. 

We thought it a fitting time to share some takeaways and resources from our conversation at our Further Together breakout session on “New Opportunities to Advance Equity in Apprenticeship.” The session featured panelists April Ambrose of the Arkansas Advanced Energy Foundation, Amaya Garcia of New America, and Dr. Kayla Elliott of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, with moderator Megan Baird from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Apprenticeship. Valerie Holloway Skinner of the Holloway Family Foundation provided introductory comments.  

Megan Baird laid the groundwork by providing a definition of registered apprenticeships – high-quality career pathways that are industry-vetted and approved and validated by the U.S. Department of Labor or a State Apprenticeship Agency – and sharing the Biden Administration’s priorities for registered apprenticeship, which include:

  1. Making strategic investments to expand registered apprenticeship;
  2. Increasing diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in registered apprenticeship;
  3. Expanding high-quality pre-apprenticeship programs;
  4. Expanding youth apprenticeship opportunities; and
  5. Modernizing the apprenticeship system.

Megan emphasized that President Biden’s recent Executive Order directs Federal agencies to support scaling and expanding the use of registered apprenticeships in industries and the Federal government and promoting labor-management forums. Further, USDOL is able to offer no-cost technical assistance through industry intermediary contractors and centers of excellence and access to consultants for stakeholders looking to expand registered apprenticeship programs.

April Ambrose spoke about the importance of apprenticeship in the fast-growing field of advanced, clean energy. In Arkansas, as businesses in this sector expand, apprenticeships can help to grow and diversify their workforces by bringing together education, training, work experience, and professional development/career progression in a coordinated and equitable way. The Arkansas Advanced Energy Foundation, an industry association, has played an important intermediary role in connecting employers and educators, developing curricula, braiding together funding, coordinating holistic supports for apprentices, tracking outcome metrics, and ensuring broader industry alignment locally and nationally.

Amaya Garcia followed by speaking about teacher apprenticeship programs, which have gained interest and traction in the last few years. Amaya shared that there are now 2,500 active K-12 teacher apprentices  across the U.S., and 34 states have registered teacher apprenticeship programs. That said, most programs are small, and the vast majority of teacher apprentices are concentrated in just 5 states, so there is still a lot of room for growth. One key barrier to expansion is state policy in some areas that restricts access to the teaching profession and thus makes apprenticeship programs more challenging. In terms of what’s promising, registered apprenticeships can help to reduce the cost of teacher education for individuals and increase access to the teaching profession for lower income students for whom cost is a barrier. Amaya shared that the data show greater racial diversity in teacher apprenticeship programs and that individuals in these programs are trending slightly older than those in traditional teacher preparation programs.

Dr. Kayla Elliott from the Joint Center shared about the Center’s research, “Five Charts to Understand Black Registered Apprentices in the United States.” In brief, research showed that: Black apprentices are clustered in the South, particularly in the construction industry; they are more likely to be employed in lower-wage jobs; less likely to finish apprenticeship training; and that their starting wage AND ending wage aretypically lower than those of white apprentices in the same industry/occupation. To see more equitable access to and outcomes from apprenticeship, Kayla encouraged attendees to follow the data and invest where Black apprentices are already working, strengthen supports for those apprentices, and push back on the occupational segregation that we can see even in apprenticeship pathways.

All speakers shared recommendations for funders interested in doing more to support the growth of apprenticeships that result in more equitable, inclusive, and accessible employment:

  • Support collection and reporting of disaggregated data on apprenticeship participation, completion, and wage growth–for both registered and unregistered apprenticeships
  • Provide flexible grant dollars for the provision of ongoing (not just one-time) supportive/holistic support services to help individuals retain and complete apprenticeship programs. Many apprentices drop out because of child care and dependent care challenges. 
  • Provide support for more high-quality pre-apprenticeship programs that are connected to apprenticeship programs 
  • To provide more opportunities for Black apprentices and other apprentices of color, go where they are already clustered–whether that is in the South, in the construction industry, or elsewhere–and provide the support that is needed.
  • Support the role of the intermediary–the entity that is needed to coordinate the training, education, employers, etc and do the metric tracking,
  • Provide funding to supplement trainer salaries to attract good good instructors
  • Provide support for mentorship and outreach to better reach and build trust with historically marginalized communities

Workforce Matters is supportive of opportunities to expand apprenticeship–with an eye to increasing equitable outcomes–so that more young people have the option to participate in high quality earn and learn opportunities. This Youth Apprenticeship Week, we encourage you to think about the ways that you can support, advocate for or invest alongside employers, the public sector, and other partners to grow apprenticeships in your cities, states and regions.

Resources on Apprenticeship: