Simple Tools to Improve Youth Apprenticeship Data Quality

March 24th, 2022

Despite its growing popularity, youth apprenticeship remains a relatively new strategy for connecting young people to the world of work and helping them access high-quality pathways to well-paying jobs. While public data on apprenticeship participation is readily available through the U.S. Department of Labor, very little is known about the reach of youth apprenticeship. 

The limited availability of public data on youth apprenticeship is due in part to the lack of a common definition of youth apprenticeship and limitations in data capacity at the state and local levels. To address the first challenge, the Partnership to Advance Youth Apprenticeship (PAYA), a national network of intermediary organizations, public agencies, non-profit organizations and foundations, is working to build field consensus around a common definition of youth apprenticeship. In 2018, PAYA identified four core elements of a high-quality youth apprenticeship program. 

That leaves remaining challenges around data capacity. Even as youth apprenticeship programs increase their enrollment, the existing apprenticeship data infrastructure is insufficient to monitor and support these emerging programs. State and federally administered Registered Apprenticeship programs can submit data through the Registered Apprenticeship Partners Information Database System (RAPIDS), but this system cannot yet differentiate between traditional and youth apprenticeship programs. 

To help state and local intermediaries improve their youth apprenticeship data capacity, Advance CTE, through the PAYA network, developed a youth apprenticeship data toolkit. The toolkit is designed to address common challenges by compiling tools and resources that state and local intermediaries can use to improve the quality of youth apprenticeship data. It includes templates, guides and links to external resources that can be adapted and modified to suit different program needs.

The tools are organized around five key steps: 

  • Step 1: Determine what to measure and why
  • Step 2: Clarify roles and responsibilities
  • Step 3: Build the infrastructure
  • Step 4: Access the data
  • Step 5: Scale and sustain using an equity lens

The toolkit is meant for youth apprenticeship agencies and organizations at various levels of implementation, from early design to statewide expansion. 

To better understand the state of youth apprenticeship implementation, ensure equitable access to high-quality programs, and evaluate program impact, state and local leaders must strengthen the quality and accessibility of their youth apprenticeship data. Access Building A Youth Apprenticeship Data Ecosystem: A Starter Kit today in the Learning that Works Resource Center. 

View more resources on youth apprenticeship here.

In Delaware, Building a Youth Apprenticeship Data System Means Looking to the Future

March 16th, 2022

This is the third blog in a series published in partnership with New America through the Partnership to Advance Youth Apprenticeship (PAYA). The blog series highlights how PAYA network sites are using data to improve youth apprenticeship quality and equity. 

In Delaware, youth apprenticeship is a critical pillar of the state’s career readiness initiatives and is a truly collaborative project. While administration of the state’s youth apprenticeship programs falls under the Delaware Department of Labor, related technical instruction is handled by the Delaware Department of Education (DDOE). This requires a significant amount of coordination and partnership across state agencies. 

In 2020, Delaware received a grant through the U.S Department of Labor to enroll 400 youth apprentices in the areas of construction, hospitality and Information Technology. This opportunity, and the expansion of youth apprenticeship in the state, enabled Delaware to focus on improving the quality and use of its youth apprenticeship data. 

Tackling Youth Apprenticeship Data Challenges 

As Delaware works to strengthen and scale youth apprenticeship, the state encountered a few challenges with accessing quality data. For one, state leaders confronted some inflexibilities with the federal Registered Apprenticeship Partners Information Database System (RAPIDS), which includes nationwide data on Registered Apprenticeship participation but does not differentiate youth and adult apprenticeships. 

Another challenge was coordinating and systematizing partnerships among agencies and organizations. Delaware first had to create and adopt shared definitions for youth apprenticeship data and then work to break down silos to enable timely inter-agency data sharing. 

And finally, state leaders wanted to make sure youth apprenticeship data could fuel program improvement, equity initiatives and storytelling, and made sure to shift from a compliance to a continuous improvement mindset. 

To tackle these challenges, DDOE assumed a coordinating role, leveraging its scale as a statewide agency to convene partners, reach consensus on important decisions, and establish data sharing agreements. In this role, DDOE was able to compile and match data, including education records, employment records and social services records, “behind the curtain” before pushing de-identified data back out to partners. 

Equipped with relevant and timely data, DDOE is now positioned to support local youth apprenticeship programs to make data-informed decisions. For example, DDOE can identify learners who would be a good fit for youth apprenticeship and provide that information to school counselors ahead of youth apprenticeship recruitment cycles. 

This data also enables DDOE to craft a story about youth apprenticeship, targeting policymakers and members of the public with stories about the impact of high-quality programs.

Lessons Learned

One important lesson from Delaware is the critical need for qualitative data from learners. Partners are developing a new case management system to ensure qualitative data is collected, considered, and utilized as part of a continuous program improvement process.  To fully understand the story behind the numbers, data must be connected to the learners’ voices and experiences. 

Delaware also learned that the goal of youth apprenticeship data systems should not be sustainability alone but rather evolution. Data systems should be flexible, always moving towards the next set of questions the state is looking to explore and answer. If states and youth apprenticeship intermediaries can anticipate the questions they will want to answer in the future, they can begin to build data systems that address those needs. 

Delaware’s advice to state and local youth apprenticeship intermediaries is to concentrate first on the initial strategy, coordination of effort, systems building and partner relationships. This will ensure there are suitable conditions for collecting and using youth apprenticeship data effectively. Partners should also establish a shared system of values that emphasize partner action and innovation and are reinforced by established data routines. 

Additional blog posts in this series can be accessed here. For additional resources on data and accountability, please visit Advance CTE’s Learning that Works Resource Center.

Kate Kreamer, Deputy Executive Director 

Standardizing Youth Apprenticeship Data to Effectively Measure Impact in Kentucky

December 8th, 2021

This is the second blog in a series published in partnership with New America through the Partnership to Advance Youth Apprenticeship (PAYA). The blog series will highlight how PAYA network sites are using data to improve youth apprenticeship quality and equity. 

Youth apprenticeship programs provide learners with the opportunity to receive paid work experience during their high school years as a way to explore a possible career-focused pathway that can lead them to a family-sustaining wage. These programs also provide secondary and postsecondary credit providing an on ramp into pursuing additional education. 

Since youth apprenticeships often cut across multiple systems and sectors, states should align secondary, postsecondary and workforce data systems and clarify which entities are responsible for collecting, sharing and/or reporting data. The Tech Ready Apprentices for Careers in Kentucky (TRACK) youth apprenticeship program is an example of a statewide program that has developed a consistent framework for defining, collecting and using youth apprenticeship data.

History of Data Collection in Kentucky TRACK 

The Tech Ready Apprentices for Careers in Kentucky (TRACK) youth apprenticeship program is a partnership between the Kentucky Department of Education’s Office of Career and Technical Education and the Kentucky Office of Apprenticeship to provide secondary learners with seamless pathways into Registered Apprenticeship opportunities. Starting in 2013 as a pilot with three employers and seven apprentices, the program has expanded exponentially, recording around 400 apprentices and over 70 employers in the spring of 2020. 

In order to tell the story of the KY TRACK program, there is a need for a consistent process of collecting and utilizing youth apprenticeship data. The KY TRACK agreement and completion forms are the primary vehicles for tracking data. This is how the state is able to gather information about the learners and the types of youth apprenticeship experiences they are moving through. Kentucky also provides implementation documents to guide intermediaries, secondary schools and employers through the youth apprenticeship process. 

There are numerous systems that work together to create the data infrastructure for the TRACK program, including Infinite Campus, a technical education database system, the Office of Career and Technical Education’s in-house tracking database and an assessment system. All systems work off the same standardization of data elements and include extensive data monitoring practices. It is clear that Kentucky does not do anything without backing it up with the numbers. 

Kentucky’s longitudinal data system, KY STATS, links high school and college data, including data on youth apprenticeship programs. Having access to this data allows apprenticeship programs to be recognized as a valuable postsecondary option for learners.

It is evident through the data that the TRACK program works. One year after graduation, 86 percent of learners who are not enrolled in a postsecondary institution are employed with a median salary of $22,241. What is more impressive is that the same group of learners three years after graduation are employed at a rate of 100 percent with a median salary of $41,539. 

Win-Win for Learners and Employers

The data shows that TRACK participants that either enroll in postsecondary education or enter the workforce right after graduation both gain value from their experience in a youth apprenticeship program. Learners have the opportunity to move through a paid career pathway that is regulated and overseen by the state, which ensures employers meet specific standards for the work learners are participating in. The end result of the youth apprenticeship is a nationally-recognized portable credential allowing learners to take their investment to the next level by gaining credit for prior learning at a postsecondary institution or entering the workforce as a valuable asset to employers.

Employer Connector 

In November 2020, KY STATS built a report focused on student enrollment in various CTE career pathways. Employers can quickly search to locate schools within a geographic area that offer career pathways closely aligned with their industry sector. The report also allows employers to search for TRACK youth apprenticeship programs, addressing employers’ requests for information to connect with school districts and learners. School districts can also use the report to evaluate their programs and utilize that information alongside labor market data to project the needs of employers in the future.

Accountability & monitoring in TRACK 

Kentucky selected recognized postsecondary credential attainment as its Perkins V secondary CTE program quality indicator. The state plans to count TRACK certificates towards its credential attainment number. Learners awarded these certificates will have successfully completed an apprenticeship pathway and will be considered career ready by the state. A copy of TRACK certificates and industry certifications must be kept on record at the school/district for monitoring purposes.

Advice For Other Youth Apprenticeship Programs

Kentucky’s advice for states and intermediaries moving forward in this work is to start small. Youth apprenticeship leaders should bring together the right program experts, including individuals with extensive knowledge on data, to facilitate a discussion on the work and build the key components of the data infrastructure. They should also offer professional development to stakeholders engaged in the work including level setting webinars on entering data into the new infrastructure. 

Additional blog posts in this series can be accessed here. For additional resources on data and accountability, please visit Advance CTE’s Learning that Works Resource Center.

Jeran Culina, Senior Policy Associate 

Using Data to Advance Youth Apprenticeship in Washington State

May 19th, 2021

This is the first blog in a series published in partnership with New America through the Partnership to Advance Youth Apprenticeship (PAYA). The blog series will highlight how PAYA network sites are using data to improve youth apprenticeship quality and equity. 

Youth apprenticeship programs provide high school learners with foundational skills and knowledge in various industries. As youth apprentices, learners become employees with a company where they can apply knowledge from their Career Technical Education (CTE) program in a real-world setting. Youth apprenticeship can also give young learners an advantage as the hours learners spend on the job and in related technical instruction lead to an industry-recognized credential or can be applied to an associate degree program. 

Given how invaluable youth apprenticeship programs are, it is important to have data to understand how programs are structured to ensure they are high quality and ensure equitable access and success. The Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee (AJAC) youth apprenticeship program in Washington State is an example of a program that effectively leverages data to advance equity. 

AJAC’s Expansion into Youth Apprenticeship in Washington State

The Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee supports Washington State’s aerospace and advanced manufacturing industries as an intermediary, providing training and connecting workers to career opportunities. AJAC was founded in 2008 as a public-private partnership between the state of Washington and the Machinists 751 union with an initial focus on developing the adult workforce through Registered Apprenticeship. Through partnerships with nearly 300 employers and the Washington State Community and Technical College system, AJAC provides 2,000 hours of instructional training leading apprentices to journey-level certification as a master tradesperson. Apprentices can take their certification directly into the workforce or build on their credentials and earn an associate or bachelor’s degree.

In 2017, AJAC expanded its apprenticeship program to include high school learners 16-18 years of age. This expansion was brought on for two reasons. First, high school CTE programs in Washington State expressed interest in apprenticeship opportunities for their students. Second, employer partners were interested in recruiting younger workers and creating a talent pipeline. With the support of Governor Jay Inslee and the Washington Department of Labor and Industries, AJAC received a federal state apprenticeship expansion grant to pilot a youth apprenticeship program.

AJAC’s program targets high school students at the end of their sophomore or beginning of their junior years and recruits them into one-year youth apprenticeships designed to provide an entry-level foundation into the machining and industrial maintenance industries. Depending on the school district, students can participate in the youth apprenticeship as an after-school program where they split their time between working at the employer site or attending instructional courses for 10-15 hours per week. Some school districts integrate the youth apprenticeship into the school day, leveraging Washington State’s area technical centers, known in the state as Regional Skills Centers. The learner attends their home school for part of the day and either reports to their employer site or their designated Regional Skills Center to complete their instructional courses for the other half of the day.

AJAC’s Use of Data to Advance Equity

Data is important to AJAC’s commitment to equity. AJAC tracks a number of youth apprenticeship metrics in an effort to diversify the aerospace industry, which is overwhelmingly White and male. Since its inception in 2017, AJAC has enrolled over 225 youth apprentices with roughly 10 percent identifying as female and 35 percent as learners of color. 

One strategy AJAC is using to diversify participating youth apprentices is to develop inclusive marketing materials and provide platforms for apprentices from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds to represent AJAC at conferences and other public events. Another strategy is to leverage partnerships with urban and rural school districts and community-based organizations who work with youth of color, opportunity youth and justice-involved youth.

Recognizing that recruitment alone is not enough, AJAC wants to ultimately leverage data to better understand outcomes of youth apprentices — whether they transition into a full-time Registered Apprenticeship program, pursue postsecondary education, or continue working in another field. Additionally, AJAC hopes to leverage data to better understand how to support youth apprentices through their apprenticeship and post-apprenticeship with career coaching, mentoring and other supports.

AJAC’s Strategy to Surviving the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic has presented significant challenges for youth apprenticeship programs, and work-based learning overall. For AJAC, the coronavirus pandemic exacerbated an already existing problem. Many of AJAC’s employer partners are part of the aerospace supply chain for major aerospace companies such as Boeing, which was in the midst of production issues resulting from several high-profile mechanical malfunctions of its 737 MAX aircraft. This disruption to the supply chain plus the coronavirus pandemic had a devastating impact on AJAC’s recruitment of employer partners and apprentices. Many youth apprentices were laid off.

To address shifting labor market demands, AJAC transitioned to engaging new employer partners in order to place youth apprentices in the food and beverage manufacturing industry, which was considered essential during the pandemic. AJAC also surveyed its youth apprentices and instructors to identify the best approaches to offering online learning and ensure that learners stayed on track to complete their programs. Based on feedback from instructors and subject matter experts, AJAC identified courses that could be converted to virtual learning platforms. Courses that could not be taught virtually or required a lab component were put on hold until learners could safely meet again in person. As part of its virtual learning strategy, AJAC mailed over 150 kits to youth apprentices that contained hand tools and other materials. Students could then follow along with the instructor through an online video platform.

Through survey data, AJAC found that many youth apprentices discovered several benefits to online learning such as reduced travel times and costs for transportation and parking, increased flexibility to learn at their own pace, increased on-time attendance, reduced test taking anxiety, greater opportunity for one-on-one meetings with instructors, and 24/7 access to PowerPoints and other course materials. 

AJAC’s Success Evidence of Demand for Youth Apprenticeships

Data can be important in demonstrating the value of high-quality youth apprenticeship programs leading to positive outcomes for employers and equitable outcomes for youth. Over three years time, AJAC reports a nearly 500% growth in the number of youth apprentices, demonstrating the demand from young learners for opportunities to connect classroom learning to hands-on, real-world work experiences. AJAC’s success to date also demonstrates that, despite some skepticism, young apprentices can be valuable additions to a company. 

For additional resources on data and accountability,  access and equity, work-based learning, or area technical centers please visit Advance CTE’s Learning that Works Resource Center.

Brian Robinson, Policy Associate