Employers need diverse, skilled talent for hard-to-fill roles, but in today’s historically tight labor market, workers are hard to find. For an increasing number of employers, work-based learning is the answer: apprenticeship programs are ready to meet this moment.
New research from Lightcast and Opportunity@Work shows that registered apprenticeship programs have increased and expanded to include over half of all occupations in the US, and 40% of those programs have been deployed over the past ten years. During that same time, employers have taken matters into their own hands, as well, creating informal apprenticeship-type programs for over 120 occupations to meet the specific needs of their organizations.
The ongoing worker shortage has businesses struggling to find employees, but the workers are out there: the challenge is connecting them with the skills they need and the jobs where they’re needed. Apprenticeships are designed to bridge both those gaps, and they’re already on the rise.
The full report, “The Changing Face of Apprenticeships: New Opportunities for Employers and STARs,” is available for free download here or by filling out the form below. Here are three key insights from the research.
The apprenticeship model is highly adaptable. While work-based learning has traditionally been based in the trades, over half of all occupations in the US now have an associated apprenticeship. As the traditional source of many apprenticeship programs, the trades are still dominant—70% of all registered apprentices joined trade-related fields last year—but paid training is on the rise in other fields. Over 100 occupations have seen new registered apprenticeship programs created over the past ten years, and an additional 120 occupations have seen informal apprenticeship-type programs created over the same period, in jobs as diverse as personal financial advisors to software developers and sales representatives.
New apprenticeships open the door to diverse talent. Over the past ten years, 40% of new registered apprenticeships are for jobs that traditionally require a college degree. By dropping degree requirements and instead training workers with the skills necessary for their role, employers open the door to more, and more diverse, talent pools. Apprenticeships can be a key element of career growth for STARs—those “Skilled Through Alternative Routes”—a category that represents over half of all workers. Apprenticeships are a way to create equitable opportunities for individuals and communities while also building diversity in the workforce.
Employers are using this model for hard-to-fill roles. Over the past several months, there have been nearly twice as many job openings as unemployed workers to fill them. That’s forcing employers to be more flexible. Instead of waiting for ideal candidates with every necessary skill, these employers are providing the necessary training so workers develop the skillset the organization needs. In 2021, the 25 occupations with the highest demand for workers all had apprenticeship programs.
The longtime success and recent uptick in apprenticeship programs create an opportunity for employers to think expansively about work-based learning, particularly because so much flexibility is possible within the model. Every kind of business can find a use for some element of apprenticeship programs, whether formal or informal, depending on their business needs.
And as employers are increasingly open to apprenticeships (and adjacent training programs), this creates partnership opportunities for communities and education institutions that are invested in connecting workers with jobs. Training providers, community colleges, and other current workforce development infrastructure can collaborate with businesses to create and sustain apprenticeship programs to help establish a workforce positioned for long-term career success.
A paid, on-the-job training program is a way to set hopeful new workers up for upward economic mobility without requiring them to spend the time and money on outside education or training, while at the same time it gives employers a supply of talent with the exact skills and familiarity they need from their workforce. While there are relatively few apprenticeships today, their number is growing, and these new apprenticeships can serve as a model that show employers they can create their own successful programs to acquire the talent they need.