Apprenticeships Taking Center Stage


In 2017, there were more than 533,000 apprentices participating in nearly 22,500 apprenticeship programs.

Apprenticeships and Community Colleges: Do They Have a Future Together is a recent report from the American Enterprise Institute. Below is a summary:

Most of today’s college students view having suc­cess in the workplace, earning a decent salary, and having a fulfilling career as key reasons for pursu­ing higher education. This sentiment is echoed by gov­ernors, state legislators, and higher education leaders who are looking at the labor market success of gradu­ates to evaluate how well postsecondary institutions are preparing students to join the workforce and contrib­ute to the economy.

However, there is a growing belief that colleges are not adequately preparing students for the jobs and careers needed in the 21st century and that a substantial gap exists between the training and education America’s college graduates receive and the skills today’s labor market demands.

Of the many options being actively discussed to bridge the divide, apprenticeship programs are attract­ing widespread bipartisan support. Apprenticeships are often considered the “gold standard” of workforce edu­cation. They are formal training programs during which successful applicants are paid while being trained on the job by experienced workers or mentors.

Acquiring new skills in the workplace is accompanied by related train­ing, typically provided by an educational institution such as a community college or a trade organization such as a union. In the past two years of his adminis­tration, President Barack Obama made apprenticeships a priority, directing well over $250 million to support apprenticeship programs. In 2017, President Trump signed an executive order to increase federal funding from $90 million per year to $200 million.

Public two-year community colleges are already central to the nation’s career and technical education system, granting hundreds of thousands of occupa­tionally oriented certificates and technically focused associate degrees. Many community college leaders have welcomed the administration’s call for appren­ticeship programs, and some have already shown themselves adept at working with the Department of Labor’s registered apprenticeship programs. But the overwhelming majority of community colleges have a ways to go before they can meaningfully contribute to the number of apprenticeships that so many poli­ticians and analysts argue the nation needs.

In this report we explore how community col­leges could play a more active role in growing the number of apprenticeships nationwide, a role that would contribute to resolving the current mismatch between what postsecondary institutions produce and what employers need.