The Apprenticeship Wage and Participation Gap

Source: Angela Hanks, Annie McGrew, and Daniella Zessoules, Center for American Progress, July 11, 2018

From the introduction:
In recent years, U.S. apprenticeship programs have become popular among politicians, workforce advocates, workers, and employers—and it’s easy to understand why. According to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), people who complete an apprenticeship program can expect to earn an average annual income of approximately $60,000—slightly above the 2016 U.S. national median household income.

Yet, too little is known about racial and gender representation in these programs. Apprenticeship—which combines on-the-job training with classroom instruction—tends to be dominated by the building and construction trades. This suggests that these programs, like the construction workforce more broadly, are disproportionately male. Indeed, men make up the overwhelming majority of those who participate in apprenticeship programs in the United States. According to the DOL’s own analysis, women made up less than 7 percent of all apprentices in 2013—even though they made up 47 percent of the labor force during the same year.

The analysis in this issue brief examines apprenticeship programs over the past decade—from fiscal year 2008 through 2017—to observe gaps in participation and wages among women and people of color. In general, it finds that women remain deeply underrepresented in apprenticeship programs and that wages among women and black or African American apprentices are much lower than those of other apprentices. Even though these programs are intended and have the potential to develop the U.S. workforce, increase earnings, and prepare workers for the jobs of the future, their current gender and racial compositions tell a different story; more work must be done to make it a reality.