Our Apprenticeship Job Training Program is Stuck in the 1930s. America Deserves Better.

Read how Apprentix helps bring job training programs into the 21st century

February 11, 2024

There's never a good reason for things to stay the same for 80+ years. As our job market continues to evolve, the way we recruit people into it needs to too. Let's look at some of the biggest problems with our country's job training methods and how to fix them. 

Job Training Program Supply-Side Issues.

There is a severe lack of awareness surrounding apprenticeships.

You'd be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn't know what an apprenticeship is in countries like Germany or Austria. In fact, 40% of Austrian 15-year-olds take up apprenticeships in high school. The same can't be said for teens here – and it's not their fault. How can you know something is available to you if nobody tells you?

We push part-time jobs for high schoolers and internships for college students. While there's nothing wrong with these options, and they certainly have their benefits, few alternatives are available for young people who don’t go to college. Because internships can be "compensated" with college credit, non-college track youth are precluded from opportunities. Why is it that job training programs are only easily accessible to those who consent to the unspoken social agreement of higher education?

Apprenticeships carry a stigma.

For many, the word apprenticeship is synonymous with blue-collar work. First of all, there is nothing wrong with blue-collar jobs. Second of all, that couldn't be further from the truth. Apprenticeships are starting to gain traction in the tech world thanks to an influx of available grant funding through the Apprenticeship Building America program. 

Many believe that apprenticeships narrowly focus on one type of skill or trade, but that isn't the case for modern apprenticeships. Even in trades-based job training programs, like plumbing, apprentices have the opportunity to learn soft skills like time management, teamwork, and decision-making in a real-world environment.

The stigma exists because of society's contrived importance of a four-year degree. We judge people based on their alma mater's quality and "rank," further alienating those who aren't active participants. 

Financial support is inadequate. 

Though the Apprenticeship Building America grant program recently made $113 million available to diversify and modernize apprenticeships, this is pocket change compared to funding routes for four-year universities.

The government provides FAFSA-based funding to college students in Pell grants, Stafford/Pell/Perkins loans, subsidized work-study jobs, and school and private assistance in scholarships, grants, and private loans. Parents are able to save pre-tax money that grows tax-free in a 529 college savings plan for qualified college expenses.

NONE of these options are available for students who choose to go the apprenticeship route, which puts the obligation on businesses to seek grant money for job training programs.


Job Training Program Demand-Side Issues.

Colleges push education as the only path to success, and companies return the favor by requiring degrees for jobs that don't need it.

Colleges need employers to post degree requirements for jobs to validate their existence. So why do employers oblige? One argument is that managers don't want to admit degrees aren't necessary at their company, especially because they had to do it. They need to justify the value they got out of their own experience. The other argument is that they're lazy. Making a degree a blanket requirement for entry eliminates nearly 70% of the US population. The worst part of all of this? Society buys into the dichotomy that is "college or nothing." See: stigma. 

The government pushes Registered Apprenticeship Programs (RAPs) as the only option for interested businesses.

The government wants you to register your apprenticeship with them – and this is *probably* the number one reason job training programs seem so outdated. The current Biden administration overturned Trump’s expansion to allow industries to organize and create apprenticeship standards rather than the current model of having the government do it. 

These Industry Recognized Apprenticeship Programs (IRAPs) would have been eligible for the same grant money as federally registered apprenticeship programs, which caused a huge kerfuffle – and thus was shot down. 

Businesses are hesitant to invest in job training programs given current "hostile" workforce trends.

An IBM study conducted in 2021 revealed that one in four surveyed workers indicated they'd be planning to switch jobs that year – an increased pace from the year prior. This was a trend before COVID and continues to worsen as time goes on. People are leaving jobs because they are not learning new skills or obtaining better wages. While it's understandable companies are fearful of employee churn, apprenticeships are quite literally the solution to that problem.

So what are the solutions? How do we make job training programs not suck? 

Make apprenticeships cool.

First of all, someone needs to tell the government to stop trying to be marketers. Nobody wants a "National Apprenticeship Week" or webinars on hosting apprenticeship fairs. It's lame, cringy, and outdated. Leave the marketing to the private companies and nonprofits that actually have an idea of what attracts talent. 

Next, apprentices themselves should feel empowered to become influencers. TikTok and Instagram are powerful tools – and younger generations rely on them more and more as search engines to get their questions answered. 

Finally, apprenticeships need to be on trend with what's happening in the rest of the world. For example, NFTs are hot right now, but not everyone knows how to get one. Giving apprentices an NFT for completing your job training program, and perks for holding on to it is a great way to show your organization has a pulse. (By the way – Apprentix is the only software issuing tokens right now.)

Make money available to apprentices.

The government should allow apprentices to apply for FAFSA-based funding where they could qualify for more than just a Pell grant and use those funds to live while working as an apprentice. It should also expand the definition of qualified expenses for 529 plans to include the use of funds while in an apprenticeship. Giving students viable funding options makes it easier for them to focus on work and incentivizes employers to create more job training programs. 

Present job training programs as skill-stacking opportunities.

You've heard of skill-building, but how about skill stacking? Skill stacking is the strategic building and layering of skills to work together to do cool, unique, and valuable things. A skill stack may start with a root skill, such as writing, and branch out to related skills like content marketing, social media management, or graphic design. An even more advanced skill stack includes multiple roots, each with its own associated proficiencies.

Pitching apprenticeships as an opportunity to stack skills attracts go-getting entry-level talent and provides job training opportunities to people within your organization looking to learn new skills and stay with the company. 

Hire people based on their skills, not education and experience. 

You can learn how to do anything on the internet, most likely for free. People are sharing their talents and knowledge on platforms like YouTube, and the world is better off because of it. People no longer need to attend four-year universities to learn how to code or become a marketer. Companies must learn how to test for these skills during the interview process rather than relying on degree = knowledge. At the end of the day, a skill is a skill - no matter where and how you learn it.

Educators should sponsor programs.

If you think universities don't have a stake in the apprenticeship game, you're wrong. Colleges already have educational programming on deck, and employers need a classroom learning component for their job training programs. Colleges that create their own apprenticeship programs and provide education for employers will come out winners.

Put political will behind apprenticeships.

Political will is needed to reestablish Industry Registered Apprenticeship Programs, and lawmakers shouldn’t give in to those whining about their funding going away if others are allowed in. It isn't an either-or situation.

The government needs to drop the facade that they're the only entity that can uphold job training program standards. It's honestly laughable. Let companies build high-quality apprenticeships through Apprentix (which is designed using ALL of the government's standards and then some) and then allow those companies to receive funding.

Can't do it in-house? Outsource your job training.

There are for-profit and nonprofit organizations that are in the business of running apprenticeship programs for companies. Once the apprentice graduates, they're hired. This is an appealing option for companies that don't have enough personnel to oversee full-blown job training programs. Should businesses choose to go this route, they can still check in on their apprentice's progress using Apprentix. (PS- we're the only software that allows this type of collaboration.)

So there you have it – more solutions than problems. After doing the same old, same old, for 80 years – there's no time like the present to get started!

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