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The Current Apprenticeship Situation in the U.S.

Updated: Mar 25

According to the United States Department of Labor, the United States has seen a 70% increase in the number of apprenticeships in the last decade. This increase has tapered off since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic but has not been ignored as the Trump and Biden administrations put forth efforts to foster apprenticeships at a national level. 


Currently, 11 Federal Agencies have apprenticeship opportunities. These federally based programs are also underscored by “traditional” and “nontraditional” apprenticeship programs in the private sector such as those in electrician work, truck driving, cosmetology, software development and medical assistance.


The promotion and development of apprenticeships and open slots for registration on a federal level has then set the tone for bipartisan support for apprenticeships across the aisles and multiple fields of business and organization. 


From 2008 onwards, the United States government has put forth hundreds of millions of dollars annually in efforts to expand the apprenticeship opportunities that exist in the U.S. This is a rare point of agreement for the partisan divide and has been a strong basis of compromise between the parties in Congress.


Former President Donald Trump created a program known as the Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Program (IRAP), which attempted to exist outside the registered guidelines of government regulation. However, it was rescinded due to the lack of protections offered to apprentices that are unregistered with the federal government. 


In 2020, a renewed National Apprenticeship Act was proposed and passed in the House of Representatives. The bill aims to boost grant funding for apprenticeship programs and increase the number of those registered. 


Critics of the bill—and of the current landscape for apprenticeships—call for more sturdy, long-term funding as opposed to grants, along with a more streamlined process for employers to register these apprenticeships if they are separate from government agencies. 


Critics also call for an expansion of accommodation for apprenticeships in the U.S. education system. The scale of opportunities becomes fragmented and decentralized when it is not directly involved with a federal or government agency. 

Improving the conditions in U.S. education to foster and approve apprenticeships could serve to strengthen the U.S. workforce in a time of need. Apprenticeships can be a smart path for jobseekers to explore alternatives to footing the bill amid ever-growing college tuition prices.


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


Sources



“FY 2020 Data and Statistics.” U.S. Department of Labor, https://www.dol.gov/agencies/eta/apprenticeship/about/statistics/2020.


“H.R.8294 - 116th Congress (2019-2020): National Apprenticeship Act of 2020.” Congress.gov, 24 Sep. 2020, https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/8294.


“US DEPARTMENT OF LABOR ANNOUNCES PROPOSAL TO RESCIND INDUSTRY-RECOGNIZED APPRENTICESHIP PROGRAM.” U.S. Department of Labor, 12 Nov. 2021, https://www.dol.gov/newsroom/releases/ETA/ETA20211112.

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