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Strengthening Apprenticeship Programs

Big Picture

Conversations surrounding the job market and job availability are growing more common in the United States. Some take issue with the rising tuition prices from universities: they do not see the benefit of a college degree that does not afford experience in a field that pays a living wage. Apprenticeships are a way to work around the university system and provide experience in a field that can offer competitive pay and job security. The United States government has found a rare point of bipartisan agreement regarding the importance and benefits of fostering a robust apprenticeship pipeline. A surge of new registered apprenticeships now creates the need for better infrastructure from the government and the private sector so that access to, and perception of, the age-old concept is broadened for the U.S. workforce.

Graphic From: Cooper, Preston. "Apprenticeships Have Risen 64% Since 2010. How Should Policymakers Support Them?" Forbes, 7 May 2021,

This figure illustrates the sharp increase in active and new apprentices since 2008. 

Operative Definitions

  1. Registered Apprenticeship: A program run by the United States Department of Labor that assists employers in finding apprentices in their fields and grants those who have the skills an opportunity to gain income and experience.

  2. American Apprenticeship Act: A bill introduced into the United States Senate that aims to provide funding for apprenticeship programs at universities, require the Department of Labor to analyze internships to determine in-demand occupations and authorize states the ability to offer grant funding for apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs.  

  3. National Apprenticeship Act of 2020 (NAA): A bill that has already passed the United States House of Representatives that expands the purview of apprenticeship opportunities toward the technology sector and healthcare, grants additional funding for programs, introduces updated employer participation programs and strengthens ties between educational institutions that participate in apprenticeship programs.

Important Facts and Statistics

  1. Registered apprenticeships in the US have risen 64% since 2011.

  2. Two important pieces of legislation, the American Apprenticeship Act (2021) and the National Apprenticeship Act of 2020 have been introduced to bolster the funding of apprenticeships and the programs in universities that support them. These bills are popular on both sides of the congressional aisle.

  3. Right now, the average amount allotted to apprenticeship programs per apprentice is roughly $100-$400, compared to $11,000 per student at the community college level.

Four-Point Plan

(1) Pass both the American Apprenticeship Act and the Apprenticeship Act of 2020. 

Both bills would provide a structural expansion of authority for granting funding to programs and for coordination with these programs on the state and local levels. Passing these bills would allow the funding per apprentice to increase, along with the systemic-level programs that accompany and foster them.

(2) Allow students and apprentices to use Pell Grants and existing scholarship programs for on-the-job training and certification in-classroom requirements. 

This would satiate the necessity to create new programs and simply build on preexisting opportunities. The employer would still provide workplace training and wages, but all in-classroom requirements should be subsidized using scholarships.

(3) Improve existing data infrastructure and expand technology related to apprenticeship data, statistical reporting and sharing of data.

The current data landscape for apprenticeship registration, statistical reporting and information sharing needs improvement through funding and updating technology. The NAA would begin this process, but fostering a system where employers can submit data to the Department of Labor is a must.

(4) Improve the registration for apprenticeships across state lines and from the federal to state levels. 

A barrier for some employers has been the lack of flow from the federal to state level in the realm of grants and funding. Some have registered on the federal level but then must register once again in certain states to receive funding. This process must be streamlined so that employers have an easier time getting funding for supporting job training and wages. This sort of organization could improve the fracture at the private level currently experienced when trying to express needs and competency levels to the Department of Labor.

Why This Initiative Is Important

In a time in which the United States has seen a bit of a job market decrease due to COVID-19 and a seemingly never-ending increase in college tuition, improving the apprenticeship at a structural and local level is an important part of offering Americans alternative choices. An important consequence coming from the promotion of apprenticeships could help reduce occupational segregation in the labor market and provide more diverse options for the public. With bipartisan support in Congress, the options for apprenticeships should improve if this proposal’s points are carried out.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author.


Cooper, Preston. Apprenticeships Have Risen 64% Since 2010. How Should Policymakers Support Them? Forbes. 7 May 2021,

“FY 2020 Data and Statistics.” U.S. Department of Labor,

Goger, Annelies. “Desegregating Work and Learning through 'Earn-and-Learn' Models.” Brookings, 15 March 2021,

Goger, Annelies, and Chenoah Sinclair. “Apprenticeships Are an Overlooked Solution for Creating More Access to Quality Jobs.” Brookings, Brookings, 27 Jan. 2021,

Hanks, Angela, McGrew, Annie, Zessoules, Daniella. “The Apprenticeship Wage and Participation Gap.” Center for American Progress, 29 Oct. 2021,

"H.R.8294 - 116th Congress (2019-2020): National Apprenticeship Act of 2020.", Library of Congress, 30 Nov. 2020,

Lerman, Robert. “Building a Robust Apprenticeship System in the United States – Why and How?” Meetings of the Labor and Employment Relations Association Allied Social Science Association, 15-17 January 2018, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 

"S.1026 - 117th Congress (2021-2022): American Apprenticeship Act.", Library of Congress, 25 March 2021,

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