Oct. 25, 2018
For generations, the promise of American opportunity has been rooted in a simple premise: work hard in high school, earn a diploma, and then move on to college or right into a job. In either case, most Americans who completed high school could reasonably expect to support themselves and their families, and those who finished college could expect a secure foothold in the middle class.
But over the last three decades, the link between American education and economic mobility has grown increasingly fragile. High schools are struggling to prepare young people for today’s economy. Too many students are disengaged and have difficulty navigating their options after graduation. Students lack affordable postsecondary opportunities, and many graduates find that a degree alone is not enough to secure a good job that lays the foundation for a career.
These challenges make the path to economic security difficult for young people, especially for those facing the persistent racial, gender, and other inequities present in the country today. This is still more troubling at a time when the American economy is creating well-paying jobs in fields like information technology, healthcare, advanced manufacturing and business services that employers struggle to fill.
The Promise of Youth Apprenticeship
Youth apprenticeship allows students to complete high school, start their postsecondary education at no cost, get paid work experience alongside a mentor, and start along a path that broadens their options for the future. For students it is a structured, work-based postsecondary option. For employers, it is cost-effective talent strategy: apprentices build skills to meet evolving business needs and develop into valued contributors to their employers’ bottom line.
Far from developing skills prone to stagnation, or locking people into dead-end jobs, youth apprenticeship can offer young people the foundation to thrive in a dynamic labor market while helping employers shape their workforce alongside changing technologies. By formally integrating learning and work, youth apprenticeship allows students to build the skills they need to be lifelong learners and helps employers become dynamic learning organizations.
As profiled in Youth Apprenticeship in America Today, states and communities across the country are experimenting with youth apprenticeship and setting goals for expansion. In 2016, Colorado launched a statewide initiative to reach 20,000 youth apprentices within ten years. In South Carolina, the number of youth apprenticeship programs has increased 42-fold since 2007. Meanwhile, states like Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, and Washington have launched pilots and statewide strategies to establish and grow their own youth apprenticeship models.
These inspiring efforts are evidence that youth apprenticeship can work for students and employers across regions and across industry sectors, from information technology to advanced manufacturing to healthcare and business services. But today’s landscape of youth apprenticeship is fragmented, and there is significant variation in program design and quality. This poses a challenge for expanding youth apprenticeship and for better understanding how well these programs can improve education and economic outcomes for youth, employers, and communities.
About the Partnership to Advance Youth Apprenticeship
Recognizing the urgency of strengthening the link between education and economic mobility—and the potential of youth apprenticeship to help do so—the Center on Education & Skills at New America (CESNA) is launching the Partnership to Advance Youth Apprenticeship (PAYA).
With the support of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Ballmer Group, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Joyce Foundation, JP Morgan Chase & Co., and the Siemens Foundation, the multi-year PAYA initiative will support efforts in states and cities to expand access to high-quality apprenticeship opportunities for high school age youth by:
- Improving public awareness of high-quality youth apprenticeship and advancing understanding of how well such programs serve students, employers, and communities.
- Disseminating better information about the conditions and strategies necessary for success and sustainability of youth apprenticeship partnerships.
- Supporting more high-quality, scalable youth apprenticeship partnerships that better serve participating employers, students, and communities.
To achieve these objectives, PAYA mobilizes and convenes the expertise of the PAYA National Partners. The National Partners include Advance CTE, CareerWise Colorado, the Charleston Regional Youth Apprenticeship Program, Education Strategy Group, JFF, the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity, the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, and the National Governors Association.
The vision of the Partnership is that youth apprenticeship will transform how the nation’s education system prepares young people for careers and launches them into a successful adulthood. We believe youth apprenticeship can promote a more inclusive economy while also meeting the needs of business.
PAYA’s Principles for High-Quality Youth Apprenticeship
To make this vision a reality, the PAYA National Partners released guiding principles for high-quality youth apprenticeship. This includes a clear definition for high-quality youth apprenticeship, principles to guide actions by industry, education and community leaders, and state and local policymakers, and related outcomes to assess progress. Grounded in research and experience, these principles are intended to be both practical and aspirational, serving to provide clear and common direction to the field while at the same time setting a high-bar for program design, outcomes, and continuous improvement.
Get Engaged with PAYA
Over the coming years, these principles will guide the efforts of PAYA and its partners to support leaders and systems in states and cities to expand access to high-quality apprenticeship opportunities for high school age youth. PAYA will convene experts and partners, support a community of practitioners, publish research, and provide grants and direct assistance to promising youth apprenticeship programs in cities and states across the U.S.
Want to stay in engaged with PAYA? We want to hear from you! Whether you are a current apprenticeship practitioner or just interested in youth apprenticeship, please let us know here. You can also check for updates on PAYA’s work on our webpage, or receive regular updates on PAYA and beyond by signing up here for our email newsletter and selecting “CESNA Update.”