Apprenticeships in the United States: Can They Improve Youth Employment Outcomes?

30 September 2014

In the post-recession labor market, young Americans face high levels of unemployment, low wage jobs, and record-high college costs. A lack of awareness and misperceptions among businesses, hinders the apprenticeship model from creating pathways to well paying jobs that don't require the youth to take on student debt.

This report was featured as a chapter in ‘Overcoming the Youth Employment Crisis : Strategies from Around the Globe’, a joint report co-authored by the global partners of JustJobs Network.

Few young Americans are familiar with the concept of an apprenticeship – a structured form of paid worker training that combines on-the-job learning and classroom instruction. Expanding access to this highly effective training model can address many of the challenges facing young people in today’s unfriendly labor market.

Millions of young people around the world complete apprenticeship programs in order to gain the skills they need to get good jobs, but young Americans are much more likely to participate in an internship that lacks the kind of structured, paid training that defines an apprenticeship. At a time when young people face high levels of unemployment, low wage jobs, and record-high college costs, apprenticeships create pathways to well-paying jobs that do not require young workers to take on unsustainable levels of student debt.

But expanding apprenticeships will require overcoming a number of hurdles that have thus far prevented their broader adoption in the United States, most notably a lack of awareness and misperceptions among businesses. This report will discuss the economic challenges facing young Americans, explain how apprenticeship can help, outline the barriers to expanding apprenticeship, and provide a case study from South Carolina, a state that successfully launched a rapid expansion of apprenticeship over the past several years.