In order for apprenticeships to succeed in the U.S., there needs to be a more concerted effort to educate young students about the pathways leading to a career that don’t necessarily involve going to college, a panel of experts said during an event in Washington, D.C., on Thursday.
The event, hosted by The Century Foundation and The Urban Institute, focused on ways the government and private sector could support apprenticeship programs as a way to boost unemployment among young adults. During the keynote address, Department of Labor Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Employment and Training Administration Eric Seleznow said that apprenticeships serve a need for young people “who are bouncing around the labor market” or who were unsuccessful in college and need an alternative pathway to a career.
And while apprenticeships are affordable and can often lead to well-paying careers, Seleznow noted that they are “not the end point” and can lead to other training and education opportunities, including a college education, for those who are interested. He told the audience that a popular saying at the Department of Labor is that “apprenticeship is the other college, except without the debt.”
The panel of experts said that one of the biggest obstacles to growing these programs is reducing the stigma that often surrounds apprenticeships. Tom Kriger, director of research at North America’s Building Trades Union, said that there is common misperception that students who do not succeed academically in high school or postsecondary education “have to go into the trades,” which is a disservice for young people who are considering and excited to pursue such careers.
Nancy Hoffman, vice president and senior advisor at Jobs for the Future, echoed Kriger’s thoughts, and said that the way the word “college” is used often connotes the traditional four-year path to a bachelor’s degree. And while research has shown that some form of postsecondary education is needed to succeed in today’s workforce, the U.S. cannot just focus on “college or not college” and ignore alternative pathways like apprenticeships, she said.
Hoffman also showed support for community colleges, which have been “rediscovered” by students and families as places to go to prepare for careers that do not require a four-year degree. But while there are many community colleges and other schools that “do a great job” with alternative career pathways, “we don’t really have a system” in which they all operate under the same standards, Hoffman said.
Also speaking at the event was Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), who discussed the Promoting Apprenticeships for Credentials and Employment Act (PACE Act), which he proposed with Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA). The bill would increase investment for apprenticeship programs and further integrate them into postsecondary education programs.
Publication Date: 11/20/2015