REPORT: Building & Marketing Modern, Youth-Oriented Apprenticeship Programs, August 2016

Eve Rips
Young Invincibles
Resource Type: 
Publication Date: 
Aug, 2016

Apprenticeships can feel like they are from another era, but they also increasingly provide promising opportunities for young adults today. On the one hand, the public perception of apprenticeships remains medieval – the term conjures up images of blacksmiths forging arrowheads, hunched over a fire. However, contemporary Registered Apprenticeship (RA) programs address a very modern set of challenges that face Millennials looking for economic stability in an era of skyrocketing college tuition and high youth unemployment. Employers have a high demand for workers trained at a “middle skill” level relative to supply,1 which means apprenticeships can address modern employer concerns as well.

Apprenticeships are gaining momentum at both federal and state levels. The Obama administration and Department of Labor have prioritized apprenticeship access, launching a new $175 million apprenticeship grant initiative. Federal legislation that would support the expansion of apprenticeship programs, such as the Leveraging and Energizing America’s Apprenticeship Programs (LEAP), Promoting Apprenticeship for Credentials and Employment (PACE), and Effective Apprenticeships to Rebuild National Skills (EARNS) Acts, are seeing a new bipartisan surge in popularity. States such as South Carolina and Wisconsin have successfully expanded their apprenticeship programs, and served as laboratories for developing new ideas related to apprenticeship.

 Apprenticeships increasingly show promise as opportunities for addressing young adult unemployment and the middle skills jobs gap, but current investments in apprenticeships tackle just a sliver of the youth employment problem, the grassroots demand remains low, and many aspects of existing programming seem outdated. With increased policy interest in expanding apprenticeship programming, the political moment seems ripe to 1) pave the way for more community-led demand for this important career pathway, and 2) ensure that programs are scaled meet the needs of today’s young people. In order to build a culture in which young adults understand the apprenticeship opportunities that are available to them, take apprenticeships seriously when beginning to plan their career pathways, and demand expanded opportunities in their own communities, decision-makers will need to engage young adult perspectives from the start. As federal and state governments are looking to increase the number of apprenticeship opportunities available to young people, it will be increasingly critical to account for the perspectives of today’s young adults.

To that end, we surveyed over 200 Millennials in the Chicagoland area, and held roundtables with an additional 75 young adults, in order to learn more about what Millennials currently know about apprenticeships, and what they would like to see in an earn-and-learn opportunity. This report combines data on program effectiveness with the perspectives we heard from those discussions in order to make concrete recommendations for both employers and political decision-makers on how to build and brand an apprenticeship program that works for today’s young adults.

The first section provides background on how apprenticeships can help address many of the economic challenges facing young people today, and gives an overview of current efforts to expand apprenticeships. The next section provides information on the project structure and the methodology underlying our research. The third section discusses current attitudes toward apprenticeship among Millennials, and highlights three common misconceptions: that apprenticeships are no longer available in young adult communities, that they function as unpaid internships, and that they always preclude receiving college credentials. The fourth section makes a series of six recommendations for creating and marketing an apprenticeship program for Millennials: we propose that new apprenticeship initiatives should take advantage of Millennial priorities by expanding pre-apprenticeship options, starting apprentices in cohorts whenever possible, and expanding options for receiving college credentials. We also suggest that marketing for apprenticeship programs should directly addresses misconceptions about wages, and should build awareness through both near-peers and social media. Finally, we pull these recommendations together by looking at health career tracks in Chicago as an example and profiling what a truly Millennial-oriented health care apprenticeship program might look like for the region. We address recommendations throughout to both employers and to political decision makers as they look into building a youth perspective into work-based learning initiatives.

Originally published by: Young Invincibles

Workforce Development