To Get More Young People Into Good Jobs, a New Focus on Apprenticeships

Philip Rojc:

For centuries, craftsmen and tradespeople engaged young people in long-term learning roles intended to pass on techniques and skills. In recent decades, though, this pathway into the skilled trades has shrunk, replaced by the pervasive belief that college is the best route to a secure career.

But college isn’t appropriate or accessible for everyone. Many low-income students drop out of college for financial and personal reasons; millions more who do get degrees struggle because their skills don’t match the job market and/or they’re saddled with student debt. Meanwhile, employers can’t fill a range of jobs that require specialized skills and training—but not a college education. A case in point: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has estimated that America will face a growing shortage of electricians in coming years. A similar skills shortage exists in plumbing and other trades.

One philanthropic strategy to address that gap involves adapting the apprenticeship model to better fit today’s economy. With the backing of several big-name funders, New America’s Partnership to Advance Youth Apprenticeship (PAYA) is expanding its work in this area.

PAYA got up and running in late 2018. It’s a grantmaking program, but it also aims to boost general awareness of the model among educators, employers and policymakers. Toward that end, PAYA has laid out explanatory material on youth apprenticeships for those in the dark about how it works. According to PAYA, the key components of high-quality youth apprenticeships are (1) paid, on-the-job learning, (2) related classroom instruction, (3) ongoing assessment and (4) a portable, industry-recognized credential and postsecondary credit.