Although apprenticeships make up just 0.2 percent of the U.S. labor force, they are garnering more attention this summer thanks to recent reports, including from the White Houseâ€™s Ready to Work initiative and a set of policy recommendations from The Brookings Institutionâ€™s Hamilton Project.
American University economics professor Robert I. Lerman posited that investing, expanding and re-branding U.S. apprenticeships has â€œthe potential to reduce youth unemployment, improve the transition from school to career, upgrade skills, raise wages of young adults, strengthen a young workerâ€™s identity, increase U.S. productivity, achieve positive returns for employers and workers and use limited federal resources more effectively.â€
Despite such findings, the size of the U.S. apprenticeship system stands in stark contrast to other major developed countries such as Canada (2.2 percent), Britain (2.7 percent) and Australia and Germany (both 3.7 percent). In Britain, apprenticeships are coming back into favor after years of decline, much like the United Statesâ€™ system. Recent surveys show that students and the wider public have a â€œgrowing appetiteâ€ for apprenticeships.
Federal investments would be one part of the approach to expanding the U.S. apprenticeship program. According to Lerman, the United States spends less than $30 million annually, whereas Britain spends about Â£1 billion (or $1.7 billion). If British spending on apprenticeships were adjusted to match the U.S. population, Lerman estimates that figure would be $8.5 billion.
Calling the expansion of apprenticeships a â€œpotential game-changerâ€, Lerman offers recommendations for federal and state governments as well as examples of successful youth apprenticeship programs in Georgia and Wisconsin
Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate