Apprenticeships are Changing, Blockchain is Here to Stay

Letter from the Chief Economist

Published on Nov 18, 2022

Written by Bledi Taska

Today, Lightcast and Opportunity@Work released “The Changing Face of Apprenticeships: New Opportunities for Employers and STARs,” a new research report showing that apprenticeship and other paid training programs are on the rise. The term “apprenticeships” has a specific connotation around skilled trades, but that’s a little misleading: what we’re talking about is the “learn while you earn” apprenticeship model of paid on-the-job training. 

That has huge potential benefits for workers, as well as businesses and training providers. Apprenticeships continue the pattern of skills-based hiring we’ve been exploring for years, showing how skills unlock new possibilities in the labor market. They also mitigate risk for employers—if you take the time to train a worker yourself, you can be sure they have the skills you need them to have.

Here are a few more key stats from the research. 

  • Over 475 jobs in the US have either registered or informal apprenticeship programs. This represents over half of all the occupations, showing how wide-reaching apprenticeships have become. 

  • 70% of all apprentices last year joined trade-related fields, which is where they have long dominated. But apprenticeships in other fields are growing—

  • Over 100 registered apprenticeships and over 120 informal apprenticeship-like programs have been created over the past ten years, for jobs ranging from financial advisors to software developers to sales representatives, and everywhere in between. 

  • 40% of those new apprenticeships are for jobs that have traditionally required a college degree. This means that apprenticeships expand and diversify talent pipelines for employers while also creating meaningful opportunity for those without degrees. Opportunity@Work has an impressive campaign going on featuring opportunities for individuals Skilled Through Alternative Routes (STARs), and this research is part of that.

  • The 25 occupations with the highest demand for workers in 2021 all had apprenticeships. The past few weeks have seen plenty of news of layoffs, but the fact remains that for several months, we’ve been looking at the tightest labor market on record. Employers are still looking for workers, and apprenticeships are one way they’re finding the talent they need. By training workers with the skills the company requires, both employer and apprentice set themselves up for future success.

Apprenticeships are centuries old, but they’re on the rise again. Workers from underrepresented groups benefit from how inclusive they are, and employers benefit by gaining a workforce with the exact set of skills their industry requires. 

You can learn more and download the free report right here. 

Economic News 

The fallout from the collapse of crypto exchange FTX continues to spread throughout the economic world; the most recent wrinkle is a class-action lawsuit filed against its founders and others, including celebrities and athletes, who promoted the company. 

It’s a complex story with a lot of moving parts, and most of it doesn’t touch on the work we do at Lightcast. But blockchain technology is more than cryptocurrency (if you have a few hours to spare, Bloomberg ran a long story a few weeks ago breaking down all the nuanced details). And what we can see is how demand for jobs and skills related to the blockchain have grown in the job market. After hitting a peak earlier this summer, these skills are on the rise again.

line graph showing job postings mentioning blockchain, cryptocurrency, or closely related terms

Many of the top employers for jobs related to blockchain and cryptocurrency aren’t in those industries themselves—they’re in adjacent fields and seem to be growing their blockchain teams from there. 

Table showing top employers; in order, they are IBM, Circle, Square, Deloitte, Jobot, CyberCoders, Accenture, Braintrust Group, General Dynamics, and Block & Company

On the other hand, the top job titles for blockchain jobs show roughly an even split between roles unique to the new technology and more general roles. 

Table showing top job titles; they are, in order, software engineers, blockchain engineering managers, cryptologists, blockchain developers, blockchain engineers, product managers, blockchain software engineers, back end engineers, strategic insights managers, and devops engineers

The bottom line: blockchain technology can be used to solve important and valuable problems in business and the economy, and we should be careful to draw a distinction between that and speculative currency markets. FTX wasn’t here to stay, but the blockchain is. 

In The Papers

Returning to apprenticeships, I had the privilege of reading a paper this week from longtime Lightcast friend and collaborator Christina Langer, along with Simon Weiderhold: “The Value of Skills: New Evidence From Apprenticeship Plans.”

The paper itself is yet to be released, but the underlying data is available here, and you can also hear Christina present on their findings in a seminar for the Stanford Digital Economy Lab here

A unique feature of the German apprenticeship system is that programs are nationally standardized to provide the same training and develop the same skills, regardless of location, creating a rich dataset covering the entire country. Following apprenticed workers over the course of their careers, the authors found that those who had gone through an apprenticeship earn higher wages over the long term. The researchers also found that one month of an apprenticeship offered up to the same return as one-fifth of a year of school. In short, they were able to demonstrate the value of apprenticeships in developing workers’ skills and abilities that lead to labor market success.

Lastly, I also want to draw attention to Lightcast’s very own Rucha Vankudre, who wrote in Barron’s this week on why big-name layoffs don’t mean the sky is falling for the rest of the labor market or even the rest of the tech sector. 

It’s been a big news week for all corners of the economy, but the data can cut through that noise to show us what’s really going on. Maybe Thanksgiving will mean next week will be quieter; the Letter from the Chief Economist will be back in two weeks either way.

Until then,

Bledi Taska

Lightcast Chief Economist

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