News & Perspectives

Three reasons apprenticeships are a “win” for workforce development

11. November 2020 Frank Avery Human Services

With record unemployment numbers and economic uncertainty due to COVID-19, policymakers and industry executives are trying to navigate ways to keep business moving while taking care of their constituents with meaningful, competitive jobs. Apprenticeship programs remain a key component of that strategy. At PCG, when we refer to apprenticeships, we’re referring to the Department of Labor (DOL) definition of Registered Apprenticeship Programs (RAPs) and newly-created Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Programs (IRAPs). These are vetted programs led by industry and endorsed by DOL’s Office of Apprenticeship, either directly or through authorized state apprenticeship agencies (SAA’s) and standards recognition entities (SRE’s). It’s important to note we’re not referring to internships, fellowships, or other work-based learning. While such programs have their merits, we’re particularly excited about the structure, value, and partnerships apprenticeships are built on and how they deliver unique results for all stakeholders.

That in mind, here are three reasons why PCG and its partners are joining with state leaders, federal agencies, higher education leadership, and industry executives to accelerate the development and deployment of apprenticeship programs nationwide.

1. Win for Jobs Agencies

For jobs policymakers, apprenticeships are an incredibly efficient tool to meet performance measures. Since the adoption of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), state vocational rehabilitation (VR), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), workforce, and other similar agencies must work closer than ever to create positive employment outcomes for their jobseeker participants. As noted by Dug Jones at Clark University, even education institutions are changing their expectations. Apprenticeships are an excellent way to achieve any combination (or all!) of agency WIOA performance measures through a single combined training and employment outcome.

Through an apprenticeship program, the jobseeker:

  1. Must be hired by the firm to become an apprentice, resulting in a successful job placement
  2. Is often retained well past 2nd and 4th quarters from exit as apprenticeship programs typically span from one to six years
  3. Is paid competitive wages, often unsubsidized by the jobs agency
  4. Attains new credentials either during the program as part of the training period or by the end of the program through the nationally-recognized apprenticeship credential for the occupation
  5. Can demonstrate measurable skills gains over the course of the apprenticeship period through on-the-job training or classroom training,
  6. Will receive wage increases for successful hours spent or competency demonstrated (depending on if the apprenticeship program is competency, time-based, or hybrid) as they achieve these skills gains, and
  7. Is an asset to an employer from their first day in the program, meaning the agency working with the employer may be able to place more apprentices with the employer or can recruit more employers to partner to develop new apprenticeship programs or utilize existing ones.

Most importantly, agencies can claim a successful exit while the apprentice is still in the program. Because the apprentices are typically being paid unsubsidized prevailing wages by an employer, the agency can exit the individual while they finish their apprenticeship program.

Apprenticeship programs are uniquely positioned to help jobs agencies or agencies with jobs placement responsibilities efficiently and effectively meet WIOA measures. As states move to adopt apprenticeships as a core workforce policy strategy, PCG has already begun partnering with state executive offices to develop a framework to engage residents and better serve businesses to ultimately meet their jobs policy goals.

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2. Win for Industry


Industry leaders often cite “shortage of talent” as one their key concerns for their future success. The result has been businesses entering into “talent wars” to compete for talent, often poaching talent at higher and higher wages. However, industry is beginning to recognize the idea that growing talent from within can be a key strategy to building talent. With the right structure, companies can grow talent from within and retain that talent long term. That’s where apprenticeship programs come in.

Apprenticeship programs are widely recognized for their ability to:

  1. Produce highly-skilled employees
  2. Upskill existing employees into new, higher-skill roles
  3. Create a more productive workforce
  4. Increase diversity in recruitment efforts
  5. Establish a stable and relatively predictable pipeline of talent

Moreover, apprenticeship programs are designed with industry at the center. Through partnerships with higher education, workforce experts, and apprenticeship experts, apprenticeship programs are built to meet the demands of industry and can be tailored specifically to an individual business’ practices.

PCG has seen this firsthand. In a recent industry collaboration with a state healthcare association to deploy a DOL-funded apprenticeship expansion grant in two states, PCG and industry executives identified four key areas of value for the industry.

Through its apprenticeship expansion grant, the industry will gain:

  1. A ready-to-work talent pipeline, saving participating businesses on turnover costs
  2. A competency-based training framework for participating businesses’ high-demand occupations, creating commonly recognized industry-wide standards and training
  3. Scalable apprenticeship programs that benefit participating businesses who may wish to sign-on in the future, and
  4. Shared administrative support through apprenticeship sponsors and intermediaries who would maintain standards, record keeping, partnerships, and other critical needs to sustain a program.

Apprenticeship programs are an effective way to match industry needs with a competitive talent pipeline.   

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3. Win for Workers

Perhaps most importantly, apprenticeships provide benefits to workers. With changing expectations on higher education institutions, record student loan debt, and – with COVID-19 – seismic shifts in job opportunities in the labor market, apprenticeship programs are creating critical opportunities to provide workers new long-term career paths.

In a previous post from PCG team member Uri Shatten, through apprenticeship programs, workers can:

  1. Earn while they learn: Apprentices earn a salary from day one, a feature that enables them to support themselves and their families without taking on a lot of debt.”
  2. Earn wage increases based on set skill gains or milestones within their apprenticeship program.
  3. Earn credit towards a college degree through related instruction requirements, and
  4. Gain portable credentials recognized across their industry by the end of the apprenticeship program.

Additionally, apprenticeships can offer a pathway to pursuing a new career opportunity or upskilling into a more advanced position in your industry.

Since apprenticeship programs match related instruction – such as college courses – with customized on-the-job training with an employer, apprentices get to both learn and immediately apply new skills in real-world settings. Apprentices can start from a minimal foundation and gradually grow into their new job or industry.

Perhaps the most compelling reason this model is a ‘win’ for workers: apprentices are typically retained by their employers! According to the US DOL, 94% of apprentices who complete their programs are retained long-term by their employers.

The benefits make apprenticeship programs an excellent choice for workers looking for their next opportunity.

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As policymakers, industry, and workers adapt to the “new normal” of COVID-19, apprenticeships will prove to be a valuable workforce development strategy that benefits all stakeholders.

Click here for more information about PCG’s efforts to expand apprenticeship programs nationwide.

Special thanks to Dug Jones, Program Manager with PCG’s long-time partner, Clark University, and Kim Tesch-Vaught, Business Development Supervisor at PCG, for participating in recorded interviews with the article’s author, Frank Avery. Additional thanks to Uri Shatten for his article, “Tech Apprenticeships: Bridging Gaps between Employers and Jobseekers.”

About the Author

Frank Avery is a Program Manager at PCG with a background in workforce and economic development for local and state organizations. His experience in operations and strategy helps meet the ongoing need for business and job growth opportunities. He serves as Project Manager for PCG’s role as Apprenticeship Intermediary for Health Quest Apprenticeship, a $6M USDOL-funded national apprenticeship expansion initiative. Learn more.