Will U.S. Companies Train? Lessons from South Carolina's Apprenticeship Carolina Program
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
Whether employers will expand their training is critical for recent initiatives to expand apprenticeship in the U.S. Federal government grants of $100 million are about to fund 20-25 projects aimed at increasing the numbers of registered apprenticeships. Senators Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) and Tim Scott (R-South Carolina) recently proposed a bill to provide tax credits to employers who start apprenticeship programs or increase the number of apprentices.
The initiative, Apprenticeship Carolina, began with a 2003 South Carolina Chamber of Commerce report. It recommended that the state create an apprenticeship program involving a partnership between South Carolina’s businesses and its 16 technical colleges. The legislature provided an allocation of $1 million per year to operate Apprenticeship Carolina along with a tax credit to employers of $1,000 per year per apprentice. Launched in 2007 near the beginning of the Great Recession, Apprenticeship Carolina stimulated over a sixfold increase in the number of employers offering apprenticeships registered with the U.S. Department of Labor, from about 90 to nearly 700.
In theory, such an increase in employer training is surprising, given the presumption that rational employers already know whether apprenticeship training is profitable or not and that the subsidy is small relative to training and wage costs.
So how did Apprenticeship Carolina manage to stimulate such a large employer response? The paper examines this question and draws lessons for understanding employer motivations and willingness to train. It discusses strategy, implementation, staffing, linkages with South Carolina technical colleges, and how Apprenticeship Carolina consultants interact with employers to help them see apprenticeships as a viable solution for their workforce development and training needs. It considers how employers think about training and how many employers change their views about in-depth training as consultants educate, provide technical assistance, and simplify the process of developing, registering, and implementing apprenticeships.