New America Releases Recommendations for Connecting Higher Education and Apprenticeships to Improve Both

In conjunction with the release of eight new recommendations regarding the connections between higher education and apprenticeships, New America’s Center on Education and Skills (CESNA) conducted an in-depth discussion on the topic with national experts and state and local practitioners.

The event began with remarks by CESNA director Mary Alice McCarthy and senior policy analyst Iris Palmer, as well as Diane Jones, Senior Policy Advisor to the Secretary at the US Department of Labor. These presentations examined the current state of apprenticeships in the United States, including the difficulty in knowing how many students enrolled in postsecondary are also enrolled in apprenticeships, as well as conflicting messages given to learners that they must choose either apprenticeship or higher education, rather than choosing both. This is a particular challenge for Career Technical Education (CTE) programs, as the experiential learning provided by an apprenticeship can be invaluable for learners enrolled in postsecondary credential programs. They also discussed the eight recommendations for breaking down these barriers to expanding apprenticeships, which include creating definitions for a “student-apprentice” and a “Degree Apprenticeship” which would connect Registered Apprenticeships and postsecondary programs and allow learners a clear pathway option to pursue both an apprenticeship and a postsecondary credential. These programs would be designed with input from multiple stakeholders and funded using H-1B Visa funds and an expansion of the Federal Work-Study program to allow funds to cover “student-apprentices.”

Then began the first of two panels, which featured state-level practitioners from Indiana and Washington, as well as national experts on apprentice programs. Eleni Papadakis, Executive Director at the Washington Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board, expanded on the work her state has been doing to connect postsecondary programs and apprenticeships in order to build a system that promotes lifelong learning and development. The panel also discussed how most apprenticeships are traditionally in construction fields, and their efforts to expand the role of apprenticeships in other fields, most notably health care. The topic of equity also featured heavily in this discussion, particularly since apprenticeships tend to be mostly male, and more women are enrolled in postsecondary programs than males.

The second panel featured three women working at the local level in designing and administering apprenticeships in health care and early childhood education. Keisha Powell, Workforce Development Consultant at Fairview Health Services, Carol Austin, Executive Director at the Delaware Valley Association for the Education of Young Children and Ta’Mora Jackson, Early Childhood Education Coordinator at District 1199C Training & Upgrading Fund spoke about their work on the ground in Minnesota and Pennsylvania. In both industries, having a postsecondary credential is often necessary for employment but not enough to immediately begin work without on-the-job training. Without a structured apprenticeship or similar experience, on-the-job training is likely inconsistent and uncoordinated. These panelists also focused on the other supports that “student-apprentices” would require for success, including bridge courses and advising.

The prospect of “Degree Apprenticeships” is certainly a promising one for connecting these disparate worlds in a way that maximizes the efforts of both.

“State Directors have an exciting role to play in apprenticeship implementation in their states, as they already sit at the intersection of secondary, postsecondary and workforce policies,” said Kimberly Green, Advance CTE Executive Director. “CESNA’s recommendations will allow State Directors to be more informed about the learners and apprentices in their state, and more deliberate in the design of comprehensive programs of study that incorporate postsecondary credentials and Registered Apprenticeships.”

Ashleigh McFadden, State Policy Manager

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