Youth Apprenticeship Programs Adapt to Meet Crucial Needs in Pandemic

Across the U.S., programs are helping young adults, employers, and communities adapt to rapid economic change.
Blog Post
Photo by Ani Kolleshi on Unsplash
June 11, 2020

As communities across the U.S. scrambled to adapt to dramatic disruptions caused by the COVID-19 public health crisis, youth apprenticeship programs adapted quickly to support apprentices, educators, employers, and other key partners. These place-based programs have drawn on connections across their partnerships to match apprentices and their families to relief resources, coordinate smooth transitions to online learning, and to maintain—even accelerate—apprentices’ momentum at school and at work. In an unpredictable and uncertain time, youth apprenticeship programs are working to minimize chaos and help young people, employers, and communities adapt to rapid economic change.

Keeping Youth Enrolled and Engaged

  • When schools and businesses closed in Charleston, South Carolina, many of the young adults in the Charleston Regional Youth Apprenticeship Program suddenly found themselves unable to continue on-the-job learning at employer sites. Trident Technical College, the program’s intermediary and main training provider, acted quickly to move apprentices’ coursework to online formats and to support the apprentices with the abrupt transition. The college, with the support of philanthropic partners, has committed to continue supporting apprentices’ coursework, even if they are no longer able to continue their on-the-job learning with partner employers. This support will ensure students can earn the credits and credentials they were on track to complete through their apprenticeships--regardless of when they can resume work to complete the program.
  • North Carolina’s COVID-19 Relief Bills include a provision that will provide continued support to apprentices whose on-the-job training has been disrupted or discontinued due to the Coronavirus. Through Senate Bill 704, North Carolina pre-apprentices and apprentices are eligible to receive tuition waivers for community college courses so they can continue the plan of study they began as part of their pre-apprenticeship or apprenticeship programs.
  • Since community college courses have gone online, the Early Care & Education Youth Apprenticeship program in Oakland, California conducted needs assessments in collaboration with the college instructors to determine what materials students needed to successfully complete their coursework at Berkeley City College. In collaboration with the Oakland Unified School District and Kidango, the program’s employer partner, staff from the program’s intermediary, ECEPTS (Early Care & Education Pathways to Success), has been working to provide students with laptops and textbooks, even delivering materials to their homes, in some cases.

Transforming Programs to Maintain Momentum

  • In response to COVID-19, the Charlotte, North Carolina based Carolina Fintech Hub accelerated the launch of the Youth Technology Apprenticeship (YTAC), a paid pre-apprenticeship program designed to prepare seniors from Charlotte-Mecklenberg Schools (CMS) for further apprenticeship opportunities and careers in application development and other well-paying technology jobs in high-demand in the region. Though the program was slated to launch in-person in July, YTAC’s leadership decided to launch the program early in a virtual format, filling the void that many high school seniors experienced with schools closed and many businesses shuttered. In partnership with the Charlotte Executive Leadership Council, Bank of America, CMS, and the City of Charlotte, the Carolina Fintech Hub welcomed the inaugural cohort of YTAC pre-apprentices in April, three months ahead of schedule.
  • Youth apprenticeship programs across the country have adapted in-person info sessions, recruitment events, apprentice application support and employer interviews to virtual environments to meet continued interest from students, families, and employers.

Contributing to Response and Recovery Efforts

  • When Denver Public Schools (DPS) transitioned all schools to online learning, DPS high school students participating in the district’s Future Educator Youth Apprenticeship Pathway (through Careerwise Colorado) could no longer provide face-to-face instructional support to students. Instead, their mentor teachers deployed them to assist families as they transition to at-home and blended instruction. Because many DPS youth apprentices are bilingual Spanish speakers, they have been a crucial resource for Spanish-speaking parents. Youth apprentices have worked to translate class assignments and resources to Spanish, joined virtual parent-teacher meetings to help with translation, and performed a range of other culturally-responsive functions to help families advocate for their children’s learning needs in a time of great anxiety and need.
  • Many youth apprentices have continued working in industries outside of education during the pandemic, supporting their employers’ efforts to provide essential services and goods to their communities while learning about crisis response and safety techniques. Jefferson Town high school student, Christian Nason continued his work as a youth apprentice with Trilogy Health Services in Louisville, Kentucky through Apprenticeship 502, a PAYA grantee.
  • Across the country in Washington state, Nathan Hall, an apprentice working at Sea-Lect Plastics, collaborated with his mentor to rapidly develop a mold to create injection-molded plastic parts for face masks for first responders and other emergency and medical personnel in need of PPE. Thanks to Nathan’s design, Sea-Lect Plastics is now able to create 75+ sustainable masks an hour for distribution across the U.S.

As communities across the U.S. transition to redesigned learning environments, unfamiliar employment scenarios, and fast-changing political priorities that result from COVID-19, youth apprenticeship programs will continue adapting to connect the evolving learning needs of youth with the changing talent needs of business. Through their innovation and partnership, youth apprenticeship programs can play a critical role in economic recovery efforts and ensure that communities across the U.S. emerge more resilient than ever.

Has your youth apprenticeship program adapted quickly to respond to COVID-19? We want to hear about it! Please share stories of your program innovations and other noteworthy developments with us using this short submission form.

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