Why do we need more apprenticeship programs, anyways?

Patrick Cushing
Patrick Cushing
June 20, 2024

Apprenticeships are a fantastic tool that serves business, educator, and individual needs, and we need more of them. Why's that, you ask? Here's why.

The other 60%

Depending on the source, approximately 30-40% of working age Americans have a college degree. What system do we provide for the other 60%? The workforce needs a more established system to help transition that 60% into careers that allow them to support themselves, their families, and the broader economy. One of the reasons college appeals to so many students is it is a clear next step. The other 60% needs clarity, too.

Did you know the average age of an apprentice is 27 years old? This implies most apprentices end up bouncing around in some college, different careers, etc. until they find the oft referred to "best kept secret in workforce." We need more apprenticeships such that they're less of a secret and can serve the other 60%.

Skills Gap

A variety of industries claim to be suffering through a skills gaps. As the saying goes, students just aren't trained in the skills that businesses require. There's a very simple solution to this gap. Employers need to get involved in education to ensure students are trained in the skills that businesses need. Apprenticeships are the gold standard for how to merge business and educational needs.

College is Too Expensive

This is certainly not the article to cover all of the reasons why college is prohibitively expensive. We'll start from the assumption that we all agree college is prohibitively expensive. Apprenticeships provide an alternative with a hard-to-beat price -- free. Apprentices traditionally have their education paid for by their employers (or some hodge podge of grants), AND the apprentices are paid for their employment while they're at it.

Not everyone needs to go to an apprenticeship, but even college bound students can benefit from a more robust apprenticeship system. Apprenticeship is often referred to as a parallel path to college. Real competition for college provides an incentive to address costs that simply doesn't exist today in the U.S.

A bipartisan solution

Finally, apprenticeships are one of the few bipartisan solutions that exist today in the U.S. That type of agreement is rare between the red and blue teams. Most of apprenticeships' recent growth began with investments by the Obama administration. It continued, albeit differently, under the Trump administration, and the Biden administration similarly continues to invest in apprenticeships. The list of initiatives those three presidents all agreed on is miniscule. Apprenticeships are invaluable as a tool that helps us unify politically.

Apprenticeships should exceed the annual attendance of college-going Americans. Presently, a significant portion—two-thirds—of Americans of working age lack a college degree. Apprenticeship programs cater to this demographic and are equally beneficial for individuals with college degrees. As apprenticeship initiatives advance, improving their initiation, operations, and recruitment, colleges are increasingly taking note.