In Pursuit of High-Quality Youth Apprenticeship

Key Take-Aways from PAYA Grantee Self Reflections
Blog Post
Dec. 8, 2023

Building a high-quality youth apprenticeship program takes time, hard work, and a commitment to self-reflection and continuous improvement. As a result, even well-established, long-standing youth apprenticeship programs are constantly evolving.

To help us better understand how leading youth apprenticeship partnerships across the United States perceive the quality of their programs, PAYA recently asked the 14 Partnership to Advance Youth Apprenticeship grantees to assess their alignment with the PAYA definition and design principles then share their findings with us.

The PAYA definition and principles were jointly developed by PAYA’s National Partners and New America in 2018 to establish a shared vision for designing effective and equitable programs — and for measuring their success. This vision is aspirational. While no PAYA Grantee has achieved 100 percent alignment with all nine elements, every PAYA Grantee has affirmed their commitment to this vision and pledged to work to make it a reality.

PAYA grantees’ 2023 self reflections offer a rich snapshot of the current evolution of the youth apprenticeship movement, shining a light on key areas of progress as well as opportunities for continued growth. Among our key take-aways:

PAYA Grantees are highly optimistic about their ability to deliver on job quality.

All 14 partnerships noted that they were “completely” or “mostly” confident they could ensure that youth apprentices have access to paid apprenticeships, on-the-job learning, mentors, and pathways that lead to good careers with family-sustaining wages. Many sites emphasized their intentional targeting of well-paid jobs. Two grantees noted that they are working to bolster their training and support of supervisors and mentors, while another partnership reported that they communicate with employers on a monthly basis and make site visits to help ensure quality supervision and mentoring.

Youth apprenticeship partnerships are less confident about their progress towards establishing accountability.

Capacity limitations were a commonly-cited barrier, with partnerships reporting that “monitoring is occurring, but not at the rate, frequency, and level necessary to inform our practices” and that “the lack of efficient centralized data reporting systems” and absence of “robust technological infrastructure to effectively capture and analyze apprenticeship data” hampered their accountability and assessment aspirations. Several partnerships noted that they are implementing new strategies to strengthen accountability, including deploying new data-tracking tools, coaching employers on options to integrate day-to-day assessments into their training programs, and creating tools to help employers document apprentices’ on-the-job training progress.

Youth apprenticeship partnerships have mixed success building programs that culminate in a portable, industry-recognized credential and postsecondary credit.

Overall, ensuring that youth apprentices have an opportunity to secure postsecondary credit presented more hurdles than helping young people acquire industry-recognized credentials. Among the barriers partnerships cited were difficulty identifying credit-bearing training options for certain occupations; limitations on which types of credit can be successfully transferred from community colleges to four-year institutions; and limited dual enrollment offerings at local schools — particularly in rural communities.

While generally optimistic about their ability to advance equity, PAYA grantees still reported significant challenges.

Eleven of 14 partnerships assessed themselves as “completely” or “mostly” aligned with the goal of ensuring that learning is accessible to every student and includes targeted supports for youth adversely impacted by long-standing inequities in our education system and labor market. Nevertheless, reported challenges included:

  • building inclusive programs for youth with disabilities;
  • uncertainty about how to set equity targets for youth apprenticeship programs;
  • limitations on programs’ ability to serve out-of-school youth;
  • constraints on the range of supportive services programs were able to offer, particularly related to transportation barriers; and
  • concerns about sustaining equity efforts in states where diversity, equity, and inclusion issues have become highly politicized.

Additional insights from our PAYA grantees can be found in a second blog post from New America's Taylor White, Director of the Partnership to Advance Youth Apprenticeship & Postsecondary Pathways for Youth, which highlights common implementation challenges and trends reported by the PAYA grantees.

Related Topics
College Credit in High School College and Career Readiness Apprenticeship Youth Apprenticeship