Category Archives: Apprenticeship

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.

Registered Apprenticeship: Federal Role and Recent Federal Efforts

Source: Benjamin Collins, Congressional Research Service, CRS Report, R45171, April 20, 2018

Apprenticeship is a workforce development strategy that trains a worker for a specific occupation using a structured combination of paid on-the-job training and related instruction. Increased costs for higher education and possible mismatches between worker skills and employer needs have led to interest in alternative workforce development strategies such as apprenticeship. ….

…. To register an apprenticeship, a sponsor (an employer, union, industry group, or other eligible entity) submits an application to the applicable registration agency (either DOL or the appropriate SAA). The application must include a work process schedule that describes the competencies that the apprentice will learn and how on-the-job training and related instruction will teach those competencies. The application must also include a schedule of wage increases for the apprentice, a description of safety measures, and various assurances related to program administration and recordkeeping. ….

….. In recent years, the federal government has supplemented its typical registration activities with competitive grants to support the expansion of registered apprenticeship. These grants have gone predominantly to states and other intermediaries to support apprenticeship expansion through partnerships with apprenticeship sponsors.

While registered apprenticeship sponsors do not necessarily qualify for federal funding, several education and workforce programs have identified apprenticeship as an eligible use of funds. For example, some veterans may qualify to receive GI Bill benefits while participating in a registered apprenticeship and registered apprenticeships are eligible for federal workforce development funds through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). …..

…. This report discusses federal efforts related to apprenticeship. It begins by describing the long-established federal role in certifying apprenticeships programs through the registered apprenticeship system. It then discusses more recent federal efforts to support apprenticeship expansion. The appendix of the report discusses federal funding streams that focus on other human capital development strategies but can support apprenticeship in certain circumstances. …..

A Vision for a High-Wage America

Source: Michael McCormack and Jeff Madrick, The Century Foundation, October 16, 2017
From the summary:
America has deliberately chosen to be a low-wage society since the 1970s. This status was not thrust upon it inevitably by technological change or globalization, but instead was the result of deliberate policy choices made over the years. America likewise has the ability to reverse course, pursuing a policy agenda that would put it back on the path toward a high-wage economy. ….

…. This report provides an overview of the current state of the U.S. economy, characterized by a sluggish recovery, stagnant living standards, inequality, increasingly volatile and uncertain incomes, especially for low-income Americans, persistent poverty, and declining benefits. Our review below of the economic data and literature will demonstrate the persistence of reduced opportunity and a low-wage America for millions since the 1970s.

The report also explores the deliberate policy choices that led to the low-wage economy that developed in the late 1970s and was solidified by the 1980s and 1990s. There was only a brief reprieve during the full-employment economy of the late 1990s, when wage growth lifted wages for all income levels; even during this time, anti-inflationary monetary policy reduced the bargaining power of workers relative to capital.

After reviewing the political and academic influences that created a low-wage America, the report proposes alternative policy choices to build a high-wage America that extends prosperity to a broader range of workers. The three main pillars of a high-wage economy identified in this report—public investment and industrial policy, education and training, and labor standards and social supports—will guide the Rediscovering Government Initiative’s research and event agendas in the coming months, as it seeks to build an agenda that can return American workers to prosperity…..

What You Should Know

  • Between 1973 and 2015, productivity increased by 73.4 percent, but hourly compensation increased by only 11.1 percent. And that meager wage growth has happened mostly at the top of the income scale. Since the late 1970s, wage growth has stopped for the eightieth percentile of earners on down, and for much of the wage distribution, earnings have actually fallen.
  • Deliberate policy choices since the 1970s have contributed to this wage stagnation, including the attack on labor unions, cuts to social programs, tight monetary policy, tax cuts and free-market economic policies.
  • U.S. manufacturing work is particularly underpaid when compared to other nations. Manufacturing workers in the United States ranked eighteenth out of twenty-seven OECD nations with available data.
    The high-wage agenda requires new approaches to directly confront underemployment and unemployment that may include government acting as an employer of last resort and support for labor organizing, which is now actively thwarted.
  • Rebuilding the nation’s apprenticeship system that still only reaches less than half a million workers, and translating promising high school career academies into respected vocational and career education system that, among other things, can create inclusive access to well-paid skilled blue collar jobs.
  • Apprenticeship Programs a Key Workforce Strategy in States

    Source: Elizabeth Whitehouse, The Current State, Issue 78, September 26, 2016

    States and businesses continue to recover from the Great Recession, and they are doing so in an environment shaped by two historic shifts related to economic and workforce development. The first is the return of manufacturing jobs to the United States and the second is new technological requirements of these jobs. While job opportunities continue to grow, today’s factories require greater levels of technical knowledge from employees.

    But with these new jobs come new challenges in the form of preparing a workforce equipped with the skills and competencies required for a rapidly evolving workplace—filling the critical skills gap among today’s workers as well as students preparing to enter the future workforce. In 2015, the Manufacturing Institute projected that the coming decade would produce 3.5 million manufacturing jobs but that the skills gap would result in 2 million of those jobs being very difficult for employers to fill.

    State policymakers are turning to apprenticeship programs as a key strategy in addressing skills gaps and meeting the labor needs of employers….

    How States Are Expanding Apprenticeship

    Source: Angela Hanks and Ethan Gurwitz, Center for American Progress, February 9, 2016

    From the summary:
    ….Apprenticeship is a proven worker training strategy that combines on-the-job training with classroom instruction, but is notably underused in the United States. For workers, apprenticeship means a real job that leads to a credential that is valued in the labor market. Apprentices are paid for their time spent on the job and in the classroom, accumulate little to no student debt, and are generally hired into permanent positions once they have successfully completed their programs. Apprenticeship completers also make middle-class wages; according to the U.S. Department of Labor, which administers the Registered Apprenticeship system, the average wage for an individual who has completed an apprenticeship is $50,000. Over a lifetime, this can add up to approximately $300,000 more in wages and benefits compared to their peers. For employers, apprenticeship is an effective and cost-efficient strategy to build their current and future workforce. In addition to lower recruitment and relocation costs, it can enable employers to develop strong talent pipelines. States, often regarded as so-called laboratories of democracy for their ability to experiment with innovative policies, have been leading the way in developing strategies to prepare more workers for employment through apprenticeship. This brief profiles states that have found innovative policy solutions to develop the human capital of workers through apprenticeship. The strategies they have deployed occur at all different levels of leadership, and with different levels of financial investment.

    Specifically, this brief highlights four state strategies to grow apprenticeships:
    – Directing state funds to establish new and grow existing programs
    – Convening partnerships to develop high-quality, effective programs that address the workforce needs of the state
    – Building a talent pipeline through pre-apprenticeship and youth apprenticeship
    – Establishing a comprehensive plan to integrate apprenticeship as part of a state’s broader workforce strategy

    These efforts can serve as a roadmap for other states seeking to address increasing employer demand for skilled workers and worker demand for access to good jobs, as well as for the federal government, as the Obama administration and Congress continue to consider what other policy changes are needed to establish a more comprehensive system of apprenticeship in the United States…..

    A win-win: home health aide training program creates better care for patients, better jobs for workers

    Source: Martha Ross, Brookings Institution, Health360 blog, November 10, 2015

    An earlier post in the Health360 blog noted that one of the implications of the U.S.’s aging population is increasing demand for long-term care. Occupations such as personal care aides, nursing assistants, and home health aides all have strong projected job growth. And yet, although these direct care positions are foundational to providing high-quality services to the elderly and people with disabilities, they typically pay low wages, do not require much education and training, and experience high turnover.

    A variety of initiatives around the country are taking different approaches to improve the skills of direct care workers, and not incidentally, job quality as well.

    One such initiative is the Advanced Home Care Aid Apprenticeship operated by the SEIU Healthcare NW Training Partnership in Washington state. The Training Partnership, an independent labor-management organization, launched the first registered apprenticeship program for home care workers in 2012 and has since graduated 215 students with another 100 currently enrolled. The apprenticeship provides 75 hours of training required by the state for most new aides, another 70 hours of advanced training, and 12 hours of peer mentoring from an experienced home care aide. Employers pay apprentices their regular wages (an average of $12 per hour) during training. Apprentices earn a raise of 25 cents per hour upon completing the first 75 hours of training and passing the state certification exam and another 25 cents per hour upon completing the apprenticeship.

    I had an opportunity to discuss the program with the Training Partnership’s Executive Director, Charissa Raynor. Below is a brief Q&A.

    Higher education and workforce policy: Creating more skilled workers (and jobs for them to fill)

    Source: Harry J. Holzer, Brookings Institution, April 2015

    From the summary:
    Employment of Americans in middle-wage jobs has been declining, due to trends both in employer demand and worker skill attainment. Workforce development in the US now mostly occurs in community and forprofit colleges, as well as the lower-tier of 4-year colleges. Enrollment rates are high, even among the disadvantaged, but completion rates are very low and earnings are uneven for graduates. Community colleges lack not only resources but also incentives to respond to the job market (while the for-profit colleges need stronger regulation). Sectoral training and career pathway models show promise but need scaling and maintenance of quality, and employers also need greater incentives to participate and create more good jobs. Three sets of policies should help address these problems:
    1. Providing more resources to community (and lower-tier 4-year) colleges but also creating incentives and accountability by basing state subsidies on student completion rates and earnings of graduates;
    2. Expanding high-quality career and technical education plus work-based learning models like apprenticeship; and
    3. Assisting and incentivizing employers to create more good jobs. Other supportive policies—including higher minimum wages, paid parental leave, and labor law reform—would help as well. Together these proposals should create more good jobs and more good workers to fill them.
    Media summary

    National Standards for Strong Apprenticeships

    Source: Sarah Ayres, Center for American Progress, August 26, 2014

    From the summary:
    …Apprenticeships may not solve all of our nation’s workforce challenges, but they have the potential to play a much bigger role in our education and training system. This issue brief discusses the benefits of apprenticeship before explaining why registered apprenticeships do not currently offer a truly portable credential and how industry-recognized apprenticeship programs can help both workers and employers. It then suggests some policies the federal government can enact to incentivize employers to write national guideline standards for apprenticeships. ….

    Policies to Address Poverty in America

    Source: Brookings Institution, Hamilton Project, June 19, 2014

    Millions of people live in poverty in this country. They suffer not only material deprivation, but also the hardships and diminished life prospects that come with being poor. Childhood poverty often means growing up without the advantages of a stable home, high-quality schools, or consistent nutrition. Adults in poverty are often hampered by inadequate skills and education, leading to limited wages and job opportunities. And the high costs of housing, healthcare, and other necessities often mean that people must choose between basic needs, sometimes forgoing essentials like meals or medicine. In recognition of these challenges, The Hamilton Project has commissioned fourteen innovative, evidence-based antipoverty proposals. These proposals are authored by a diverse set of leading scholars, each tackling a specific aspect of the poverty crisis.
    Proposals include:
    Section 1. Promoting Early Childhood Development
    Expanding Preschool Access for Disadvantaged Children
    Elizabeth U. Cascio and Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach

    Addressing the Parenting Divide to Promote Early Childhood Development for Disadvantaged Children
    Ariel Kalil

    Reducing Unintended Pregnancies for Low-Income Women

    Isabel Sawhill and Joanna Venator

    Section 2. Supporting Disadvantaged Youth
    Designing Effective Mentoring Programs for Disadvantaged Youth
    Phillip B. Levine

    Expanding Summer Employment Opportunities for Low-Income Youth
    Amy Ellen Schwartz and Jacob Leos-Urbel

    Addressing the Academic Barriers to Higher Education

    Bridget Terry Long

    Section 3. Building Skills
    Expanding Apprenticeship Opportunities in the United States
    Robert I. Lerman

    Improving Employment Outcomes for Disadvantaged Students
    Harry J. Holzer

    Providing Disadvantaged Workers with Skills to Succeed in the Labor Market
    Sheena McConnell, Irma Perez-Johnson, and Jillian Berk

    Section 4. Improving Safety Net and Work Support
    Supporting Low-Income Workers through Refundable Child-Care Credits
    James P. Ziliak

    Building on the Success of the Earned Income Tax Credit

    Hilary Hoynes

    Encouraging Work Sharing to Reduce Unemployment
    Katharine G. Abraham and Susan N. Houseman

    Designing Thoughtful Minimum Wage Policy at the State and Local Levels
    Arindrajit Dube

    Smarter, Better, Faster: The Potential for Predictive Analytics and Rapid-Cycle Evaluation to Improve Program Development and Outcomes
    Scott Cody and Andrew Asher