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Beyond Degrees: The Rising Importance of Apprenticeships

July 3, 2024

When seeking qualified talent, employers often put too strong of an emphasis on a college degree, while overlooking important skills acquired through alternative routes, known as “STARs” – skilled through alternative routes.  One of those alternative routes is apprenticeships.

Apprenticeships provide valuable opportunities for workers without bachelor’s degrees to gain skills and access higher-paying jobs, benefiting both the economy and businesses. To achieve this, significant investments and collaboration between the private and public sectors are essential, moving away from an overreliance on college degrees to fill talent gaps.

Emerging industries such as AI, semiconductors, and clean energy are creating significant opportunities for good jobs and workforce development in the U.S. However, the traditional approach of relying solely on college graduates to meet the skills demand is insufficient. Half of the U.S. workforce lacks a bachelor’s degree but possesses valuable skills acquired through alternative STARs. Apprenticeships offer a promising solution, enabling workers to earn and learn simultaneously without incurring debt.

Research by the Burning Glass Institute and Multiverse highlights the potential of apprenticeships to transition 830,000 individuals into higher-wage roles, generating $28.5 billion in additional annual earnings. This approach not only boosts business productivity but also strengthens the economy by providing career pathways for workers at all stages.

Employers are increasingly recognizing the necessity of apprenticeships for emerging occupations like cybersecurity and data analysis. Successful examples include IBM’s “New Collar” program, which has expanded to over 33 registered apprenticeship roles since its launch in 2017. According to their website, the IBM Apprenticeship Program provides an entry point into IBM for candidates with relevant skills who may not have a traditional college degree. More companies are now investing in apprenticeship pathways, realizing the need to move beyond traditional degree requirements.

33 states offer tax credits and tuition support for registered apprenticeships. Michigan has an apprenticeship tax credit of up to $2,000 per apprentice trained in that tax year and has a program called MI Apprenticeship that they define as “a grant-funded government program built to encourage and support apprenticeships as an emerging workforce solution.” The program works with employers to create, develop, implement, and launch an apprenticeship program that meets that company’s needs. View their employer FAQs here.

Additional MI Apprenticeship resources can be found at

Does your organization have an apprenticeship program? I’d love to hear about it. Email me at


By Mary E. Corrado, courtesy of SBAM-approved partner, ASE.

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