The Country's Views on Apprenticeship Shined in National Apprenticeship Chat

A recap of a highly-engaged annual Twitter chat celebrating National Apprenticeship Week
Blog Post
Nov. 26, 2019

New America’s Center on Education & Skills recently celebrated National Apprenticeship Week from November 11-17 with our national partners, grantees, and other apprenticeship advocates. This US Department of Labor-sponsored event allowed for opportunities for advocates, practitioners, and researchers of apprenticeship alike to share all the advancements made in apprenticeship across the country in 2019.

To commemorate this annually-celebrated week, New America's Education Policy Program hosted a Twitter Chat to hear and share more from the country on the state of apprenticeship from audiences everywhere. We call it #ApprenticeshipChat. This is a look at who was there, what was shared, and what the current pulse is on apprenticeship on the ground in the United States.

Collage of screenshots demonstrating the breadth of participants in the #ApprenticeshipChat

Who had something to say on apprenticeship?

Examples of different regions that participated in the #ApprenticeshipChat conversation

The participant turnout exceeded our expectations, which allowed for a display of common themes, unique ideas, and exciting hopes. The voices ranged from state departments, such as the Mississippi Department of Employment Security, statewide programs, such as Apprenticeship Utah, to local programs such as ApprenticeshipPHL in the Philadelphia-area.

Examples of different industries that were advocated for in the context of apprenticeship

Participation in the chat was not only geographically diverse, but also spanned multiple industries, demonstrating the growth of apprenticeship in America. Traditionally, apprenticeship advocates are most visible in construction, manufacturing, and other blue collar industries, but we saw a growing presence from groups in healthcare, information technology, and even early childhood education. There was also mention of work in cybersecurity, marketing, insurance, and more.

The conversation garnered open interaction and engagement. Participants were able to ask and answer questions to each other about their programs, follow up or enhance on others' comments with additional relevant materials, or even just express friendly delight in a participant's work.

Examples of engagement in the #ApprenticeshipChat

The Conversation

The Twitter chat consisted of five public questions for participants to share their own custom responses. The first question allowed for an open conversation on what makes a "high-quality" apprenticeship in order to have the chance to hear what people really mean when they're talking about "apprenticeship." Many definitions were offered. Dr. Joiselle Cunningham, both the CEO of Pathways to Creative Industries and a senior advisor to an apprenticeship program called CareerWise New York, said "apprenticeship should be a path to increase social mobility and networks for students, college options and promote expansive learning in opportunities while getting paid."

A talent development consultant company called Maher & Maher then said "high-quality programs often start small and scale through strong partnerships ensuring a continuous and balanced demand and applicant pipeline." The National Center for Construction Education and Research, or NCCER, nicely summarized that "there are many factors that make an apprenticeship stand out," going on to list examples of factors such as safety and credential completion.

Indeed, several specific examples of high-quality apprenticeship were shared that showed just how vast apprenticeship programs are across the country. An organization called Advance CTE mentioned one in Kentucky. A policy analyst at New America, Michael Prebil, mentioned one in Chicago. The director of the Center on Education & Skills at New America (CESNA), Mary Alice McCarthy, listed examples in Maryland, Montana, Washington, South Carolina, North Carolina, and more. The tone was set immediately that the geographic spread and growth of apprenticeship is creating promising programs worth watching.

The second question was a more explicit call for a report out on the state of apprenticeship in participants' communities, offering the opportunity to share local examples of their own and the progress they were making. An organization called JFF reported that "nationally, there’s an upswing in interest from businesses, governments, and education." To reinforce this idea on the state level, CareerWise Colorado shared that, "in Colorado, we are currently working in 7 industry pathways with over 20 occupations available. As demand from industry and students grow, we are looking to expand our occupation offerings each year by 10 - 14 new occupations available for apprenticeship.”

A program in Massachusetts called ASA Impact discussed how just last year, they launched efforts to fill a dire need for STEM workers, an idea reinforced by Michael Prebil with examples from Baltimore of apprenticeships being developed in cybersecurity and digital marketing. Another local example was shared by Laura Bornfreund, director of Early and Elementary Education at New America, about a pilot model in Oakland, California that is trying to build its early childhood education workforce with youth apprentices from local high schools.

To find research on how states and universities are approaching apprenticeship, Mary Alice McCarthy shared a report about four state policy strategies for financing the costs of college-connected apprenticeship training.

The segue into how to actually implement apprenticeship into our communities and current workforce development systems grew in the third question, which turned to the education system as an essential partner. The question asked how high schools and colleges could get more involved in apprenticeship as a way to give future workers the opportunities they need for future careers.

For high schools, the concept of youth apprenticeships was a popular one. Mary Alice McCarthy explained that "high schools are a previously untapped source of great potential & talent for apprenticeship. Now, hundreds of programs are giving youth an opportunity to learn and earn.” Senior Policy Analyst with CESNA, Taylor White, shared many resources and details about the Partnership to Advance Youth Apprenticeship (PAYA), a multi-year initiative that supports the efforts in states and cities, including nine grantees and a Network of programs across the country, to expand access to high-quality apprenticeship opportunities by establishing a set of five principles for high quality youth apprenticeship. "The PAYA principles are designed to help youth apprenticeship programs evolve to become career-oriented, equitable, adaptable, portable, accountable," she said, sharing a resource that lists the five principles.

"Nationally, we are seeing an upswing in apprenticeship interest from business, government, and education." – JFF, #ApprenticeshipChat 2019

While this was a common idea, some shared insight into the potential challenges high schools can face. "High schools should get more involved in apprenticeships but need support to figure out logistics: do students get credit for apprenticeships, does it take time away from studies, how to balance with prep for standardized tests, transportation, costs, etc," said ASA Impact. Apprenticeship Utah is also trying to make it work in their state and was sure to mention that they are "working with high schools, [but it's] all being led by industry."

For colleges and universities, the conversation was equally busy. Ivy Love, a Policy Analyst with CESNA, explained that "apprenticeships integrated with degree programs can offer ways to lower financial barriers to those degrees. Framing apprenticeship as a degree attainment strategy in relevant fields can help bring together apprenticeship and higher education leaders." She offered some research from New America that frames how states can embrace this idea of degree apprenticeships.

Jennifer Oddo from IBM gave an example of Youngstown State University in Ohio connecting students with IT apprenticeships at IBM. Utah also shared that in addition to working with community and technical colleges, they are working with two universities on degree apprenticeship “focusing initially on Computer Science, Software Development and Cyber Security in Clean Energy & Advanced Manufacturing, then moving into others."

But why should communities go down this route? Why is education a good avenue to support apprenticeship programs? The answers were plentiful but varied, ranging from the benefits of apprenticeship for employers to its benefits for students as well. Illinois workNet gave a great overview saying, "opening the door to different learning opportunities for youth to grow helps better our future workforce. Apprentices finish a program with industry skills needed to fulfill employers’ job openings." NCCER also highlighted the benefits for both employers and students: "Apprenticeships give students more options to find a career they love, and at a much lower cost. Many students become apprentices, learn a craft, spend a few years in the field, and then go back to school for a more advanced degree like engineering or management!"

"Youth apprenticeship connects the learning needs of high school students with the talent needs of industry, giving them the opportunity to explore a brand new field of work while earning money, college credit, and invaluable experiences." – Mary Alice McCarthy, #ApprenticeshipChat 2019

The student voice was a popular feature in this portion of the #ApprenticeshipChat. Advance CTE shared a student's story from the New York Times, Michael Prebil shared a video of a student interview on the subject, and the organization Oklahoma Works shared a video of two students encouraging other prospective youth apprentices to "Go for it!". Similar student stories and voices are covered in this "Voices of Youth Apprenticeship" video shared by CESNA program assistant Joyce Hwang. Many of those student stories commented on the access to affordable – or perhaps free – college credits and degrees. "High-quality apprenticeship could mean access to career opportunities, free or debt free college credit and other learning opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise exist," said Dr. Cunningham.

The final question ended where all good conversations should: Hope for the future. This was both a call for examples of where participants hope apprenticeship will go, and a call for action from employers, education, and policymakers to help get them there. "We're working to add 800 apprenticeship opportunities by 2022 across the state including opportunities for youth," said Oklahoma Works. Illinois workNet also hopes to use funding from its state Department of Commerce and from the U.S. Department of Labor "to create more opportunities to develop, expand, and grow across industry sectors to align with local and regional needs."

But the recommendations for action were abundant; too many to name. Here were a few:

  • Support intermediaries and practitioners who do the hard work of building and sustaining partnerships between employers and schools
  • Streamline apprenticeship-to-degree transitions and integrate degrees into apprenticeship
  • Fund ways to cover tuition costs of apprentice community college courses
  • Encourage and then support employers to invest in these programs, lead initiatives, and bring apprentices on as employees
  • Support schools’ efforts to roll out more robust career exploration programs and make room in students’ schedules for apprenticeship to work
  • Collect more high-quality data for continuous improvement to best serve learners

What's next?

If you missed this year's National Apprenticeship Week Twitter Chat, you can join us next year, or better yet, get started now on finding the resources you need to learn about and build apprenticeship into your workforce. For information on apprenticeship broadly, you can find research, resources, and stories throughout our Center on Education & Skills webpage and in their monthly newsletter.

For more information on youth apprenticeship for high schools, you can find everything you need and more on our PAYA Resources page, or find information and examples on the PAYA webpage. Examples of content include videos to help recruit employers, examples of models that are seeing success, and maps of apprenticeship programs in your region.

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