The 2016 election heightened an ongoing debate in the United States about how best to respond to two of the foremost economic challenges of the current era: stagnant wages and a dearth of promising career prospects for American workers without a bachelor’s degree. These challenges persist despite a dramatic increase in recent decades in years of schooling and sizable investments (by both the U.S. government and individual students and their families) in traditional forms of higher education. In this paper, I argue that a large-scale apprenticeship program could address these challenges, while also yielding substantial additional gains for employers and the U.S. economy.
A good deal of evidence suggests that apprenticeship programs are more cost-effective than academic-only approaches at raising skill levels, especially for employability and occupational skills. Yet the United States has lagged far behind other developed countries—countries like Germany and Switzerland, but also Australia, Canada, and England—in creating apprenticeships. In these countries, apprentices constitute about 2.5-3.0% of the labor force, or about 10 times the U.S. rate.
Increasing the availability of apprenticeships would increase youth employment and wages, improve workers’ transitions from school to careers, upgrade those skills that employers most value, broaden access to rewarding careers, increase economic productivity, and contribute to positive returns for employers and workers. This memo reviews the evidence on apprenticeship programs and presents policy proposals to upgrade human capital by stimulating a large-scale expansion of apprenticeships.
I first review the evidence on apprenticeship, which suggests that increasing the availability of apprenticeships would increase youth employment and wages, improve workers’ transitions from school to careers, upgrade those skills that employers most value, broaden access to rewarding careers, increase economic productivity, and contribute to positive returns for employers and workers. I then propose policies to stimulate a large-scale expansion of apprenticeship in the United States.
So how can the United States overcome these problems and scale apprenticeships? Building and sustaining a high-quality apprenticeship system will require several elements, including:
- effective branding and broad marketing;
- incentives for direct marketing and organizing apprenticeships to private and public employers;
- credible, recognized occupational standards with continuing research on changing requirements;
- public funding for off-job quality instruction;
- a system of credible end-point assessments of apprentices and programs;
- one or two certification bodies to audit programs and issue credentials;
- simple systems enabling employers to create and to track the progress of apprentices;
- counseling and screening for prospective apprentices to insure they have the aptitude for, and interest in, the field;
- training for the trainers/mentors of apprentices; and
- research, evaluation and dissemination.
Recognizing the United States cannot accomplish this vision overnight, I focus on four feasible initiatives. The goals are to achieve a major increase in the scale of the publicly-supported apprenticeship system within a few years, and to provide an infrastructure for long-term expansion.
Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story @ Scaling Apprenticeship to Increase Human Capital – The Aspen Institute