Growing the Community of States and Cities Leading on Youth Apprenticeship

PAYA Grantees and Network National Partners to Advance Growing Field of American Youth Apprenticeship
Blog Post
May 29, 2019

Today, the Partnership to Advance Youth Apprenticeship announced grants to partnerships in cities and states across the country to support their efforts to develop and expand access to high-quality youth apprenticeship opportunities. The PAYA Grantees join the growing national field of leaders working at the state and local level across the country to expand youth apprenticeship.

PAYA Grantees were selected from an extremely competitive pool of over 220 applicants from 49 states and Puerto Rico. With more strong, high-potential partnerships applying than grant funds available, grantees were ultimately selected through a multi-stage process designed by the PAYA National Partnership. While the process first and foremost assessed the strength and potential of each application to deliver on core grant outcomes, the process additionally weighed how the grantees could uniquely contribute to this emerging field through innovative approaches and partners, as well as clear plans to leverage grant funds to accelerate progress in their state or community.

Selected from a cohort of finalists all with high-potential efforts in place, the nine applications receiving grants represent a diverse set of strategies and partnerships focused on launching new and expanding existing youth apprenticeship programs in multiple cities, regions, and states, and in a range of industries. You can read more about the PAYA grantees and their work in the coming weeks by visiting

But the grantees are not the whole story. Beyond the nine grantees, there are cities and states with strong industry and education partnerships and innovative approaches to start and expand youth apprenticeship programs. The PAYA Grant Initiative was not structured to rank or award "the best" or "top performing" programs in the country. To the contrary, from Wisconsin to New York City, and from Chattanooga, Tennessee to Elkhart, Indiana there are a number of exciting, established youth apprenticeship efforts underway and worth watching across the U.S. Rather, the PAYA grantees will join and learn from the growing national community of existing efforts across the country to expand high-quality youth apprenticeship.

Introducing the PAYA Network

To support the growing, national community of efforts to expand youth apprenticeship, we are launching the PAYA Network. The Network is a national learning collaborative designed to recognize, connect, and support high-potential youth apprenticeship partnerships. Identified through the PAYA Grant Initiative, Network participants are top scoring applicants that were selected to join PAYA National Partners CareerWise Colorado and the Charleston Regional Youth Apprenticeship Program as promising and exemplar efforts focused on expanding high-quality youth apprenticeship opportunities that reflect the PAYA National Definition & Principles for High-Quality Youth Apprenticeship.

Through Fall 2020, participants will connect and work together to surface best practices and co-develop solutions on topics ranging from policy barriers to programmatic challenges. To support participants, PAYA will organize and host a range of activities, including national working groups on priority issues and virtual and in-person convenings. Along with the grantees, PAYA will also work to resource the efforts of Network participants, including through additional funding opportunities to accelerate members’ work, and elevate accomplishments to local, state, and national audiences.

Why the PAYA Network? Why Now?

The overwhelming response to the PAYA Grant Initiative Application and a recent National Meeting in Charleston, South Carolina demonstrated an interest in creating a space for practitioners and leaders of existing youth apprenticeship efforts to connect, share, and learn from one another. Further, among the pool of PAYA finalists are state and city led efforts that, while not ultimately selected to receive a grant, exemplify the PAYA National Principles and are well-positioned to advance this field as a whole. PAYA is standing up the Network to both recognize and support these efforts directly.

In the education and workforce space today there are a number of effective networks already in place linking various place-based efforts all of which, to be beneficial, demand engagement and time from participating members. But a network approach to link the emerging field of youth apprenticeship has particular value given the challenges the field faces today. This is because among the historical barriers for expanding youth apprenticeship has been the piecemeal and fragmented way that youth apprenticeship developed in the U.S. To date, growth in the field has largely been the result of successive waves of interest and experimentation over several decades, rather than a coherent national idea or vision. This presents practical start-up challenges for interested local efforts, as well as a barrier to the sustained expansion of high-quality programs over time.

A network approach will first recognize that youth apprenticeship is and always will be fundamentally place-based. It’s where students are educated and where workers are hired. In turn programs reflect the opportunities and challenges of regional labor markets, the structure of local education systems and institutions, and the buy-in of relevant state and local industry, education, and political leadership. These place-based factors influence how youth apprenticeship partners come together.

But a network approach also acknowledges that scaling youth apprenticeship over time will mean aligning with existing systems, building new capacities to work between the worlds of learning and work, and developing policies to support not only growth, but also quality and equity. These are priorities that no single state or community should be left to design around and address on its own. A network enables otherwise disconnected efforts to confront shared program and policy challenges, and address the big questions about the future of this field, including:

  • What does good look like? Youth apprenticeship demands a unique level of commitment from participating employers and students. In turn, each needs to know what that commitment demands, and what they should expect to receive in return. Building on the PAYA National Definition for Youth Apprenticeship, the Network offers a space for those organizations implementing youth apprenticeship to continue to build and shape norms about quality and outcomes.
  • How does youth apprenticeship work, and for whom? How are youth apprenticeship programs today aligned with, or even challenging, ideas about designing equitable pathways for students? For employers, what does employing high-school aged youth mean for their business? What are the roles and responsibilities of K-12, higher education, and industry partners engaged in these efforts? How well are programs serving diverse students, employers, and communities? The Network will make it possible to share practices, data, and stories that inform these core questions about this emerging field.
  • Who makes up "the field" of youth apprenticeship? Youth apprenticeship programs demand partnerships across industry, K-12, higher education. Managing those partnerships effectively requires designated intermediary capacity. Because intermediaries (the organizations coordinating the work on the ground) tend to be affiliated with higher education, industry, K-12, or even an independent organization, the people doing the work lack a focused space to connect with counterparts from other programs, who may be embedded in different types of organizations. The Network will offer a dedicated space for intermediaries, regardless of where they sit or their organizational affiliation.

Through the PAYA Network, PAYA and its National Partners look forward to supporting the PAYA Grantees and Network to explore these questions and more as they build high-quality youth apprenticeship programs to promote inclusive economic development and create new opportunities for young people. We encourage you to explore the map to learn more about the members of the PAYA Network and Grantee cohort.

To stay up to date on the activities of the PAYA Grantees and Network, visit or stay connected to the initiative’s progress by following the #PAYA hashtag on Twitter at @NewAmericaEd.

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Related Topics
Youth Apprenticeship Workforce Development & CTE Apprenticeship College and Career Readiness College and Career Readiness Apprenticeship