Could apprenticeships be an answer to the skills gap?
August 20, 2018
By Heather Nezich, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE
A majority of Americans (62%) agree that apprenticeships—or “earn while learning” vocational opportunities—make people more employable than going to college, according to the results of the latest American Staffing Association Workforce Monitor® survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults conducted online by The Harris Poll.
About seven in 10 U.S. adults say learning a specific trade is better for finding a job than a bachelor’s degree (68%) and that college degrees aren’t worth as much as they used to be (69%). 71% of survey respondents disagree that completing an apprenticeship will limit one’s future employment options and that earn-while-learning programs generally lead to a lower salary than occupations requiring a college degree (60%).
Nine out of 10 Americans (94%) say that apprenticeships are helpful in leading to a new career. And they think that these vocational opportunities are valuable because they provide people with the ability to prepare for a job (94%) and learn an interesting trade (94%).
“Apprenticeships or earn and learn programs offer great value to job seekers because they get paid while learning a new vocation—available across a wide variety of occupations and industries,” said Richard Wahlquist, ASA president and chief executive officer. “U.S. businesses need to act now to launch work-based learning programs to address the widening skills gap and help attract and hire the best candidates in this tight labor market.”
According to the Department of Labor, there are 6.1 million jobs that employers can’t fill because they can’t find enough skilled workers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 5.1 million Americans who want full-time work but can only find part-time jobs. The unemployment rate for high school graduates and college dropouts is close to 20%. Hence, the skills gap. These prospective employees need skills training to become productive members of the workforce.
Perhaps a blend of college and an apprenticeship is the best option? About nine in 10 U.S. adults (87%) say it is smart to consider both apprenticeships and college as options. According to an article in Bloomberg, “If done right, apprenticeships could do a lot to close the skills gap. In a good apprenticeship program, unskilled workers would be guided by mentors, get on-the-job training and take narrowly tailored classes in community college.”
In other parts of the world apprenticeships are working as a successful bridge between academic and professional life, transforming students into ready-to-hire employees. For example, in Germany college-age students can train for 365 different jobs. They have a dual track vocational system that offers classes designed with the help of local employers along with on-the-job, paid training. German apprentices are 40% more likely to find work within six months after finishing school than American graduates.
There are approximately 545,000 apprentices in the U.S. in over 1,000 different occupations. With the skills gap widening, apprenticeships may begin to see a growth spurt in the U.S.