Can the U.S. Scale up Apprenticeship Training? Lessons from the U.S. and Abroad
(Employment and Training Programs)
Thursday, November 12, 2015: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
Orchid A (Hyatt Regency Miami)
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
Panel Organizers: Robert Lerman, Urban Institute
Panel Chairs: Stephanie Cellini, George Washington University
Discussants: Kevin Hollenbeck, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research
A bipartisan resurgence of interest in apprenticeship is emerging in the U.S., motivated by concerns about skill shortages, the high costs of college, weaknesses in federal training programs, and the increasing awareness of success of countries with robust apprenticeship programs. Senators Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) and Tim Scott (R-South Carolina) recently introduced a bill to provide tax credits to employers who start apprenticeship programs or who increase the number of apprentices beyond 80 percent of their recent levels. The Obama Administration is providing $100 million in competitive grants for states and other organizations to expand apprenticeship slots. It also included a $2 billion budget proposal for apprenticeship over the next 10 years. Republican governors Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Nikki Haley of South Carolina are enhancing state efforts to increase the take-up of apprenticeship.
The international evidence for the cost-effectiveness of apprenticeships is compelling. Countries with robust apprenticeship systems achieve far lower youth unemployment rates than countries without these systems, as documented by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in its 2010 report “Off to a Good Start: Jobs for Youth (2010).” Several international organizations are promoting the expansion of apprenticeship, including the International Monetary Fund, the OECD, European Union, and International Labor Organization. Major apprenticeship systems are not limited to Germany, Austria and Switzerland but extend to English-speaking, market oriented countries such as Australia, Canada, and England.
Notwithstanding the enthusiasm for apprenticeship among many policymakers, achieving scale in apprenticeship in the U.S. is a major challenge. Reaching the same share of the U.S. workforce in apprenticeships as the average of Australia, Canada, and England would require 4 million apprenticeships, about 10 times the current level. Moreover, an apprenticeship initiative attempted in the early 1990s by both Presidents Bush and Clinton fizzled after a few years.
This session includes four papers that can inform current efforts to expand apprenticeship. The authors are both researchers and practitioners. The paper by Brad Neese, Director of Apprenticeship Carolina, deals with how best to stimulate employers to create apprenticeships. It draws on South Carolina’s successful experience in achieving more than a sixfold increase in employer apprenticeship offers, mostly undertaken during the economic downturn. Tom Bewick, founder of the International Skill Standards Organization and former official dealing with apprenticeship in the UK government, will describe the international evidence for expanding work-based training models like apprenticeship. Although the paper covers several countries, the focus is on the striking apprenticeship expansion in England. The paper by Devlin Hanson provides the first major analysis of the United States Military Apprenticeship Program (USMAP), operated by the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. USMAP accounts for a rising share (now about 20 percent) of all registered apprenticeships in the U.S. Robert Lerman’s paper examines the range of apprenticeship initiatives supported by the federal government to expand apprenticeship, including the 20-25 grantees funded through the recent $100 million allocation and through a community college program.