Apprenticeship model sets path to higher employment but is being underutilized by lawmakers
Apprenticeship programs show tremendous promise as a long-term strategy to create jobs and grow incomes for working North Carolinians. Yet despite the benefits, state lawmakers underutilize apprenticeship programs as a way to grow wages, according to a new report from the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the NC Justice Center.
Apprenticeship programs, which combine classroom learning with paid on-the-job training and guarantee job placement upon graduation, can lead to increased salary and set workers on a path to higher employment opportunities, the report said. The U.S. Department of Labor finds the average salary for a worker who completes an apprenticeship program is $50,000, and analysis shows individuals who participated in an apprenticeship program made $66,000 more during a nine-year study period than individuals who did not ($114,000 for participants, $48,000 for non-participants).
As of May 1, 2017, there were 5,256 apprentices enrolled in 308 active Registered Apprenticeship programs across the state. These programs are overseen by ApprenticeshipNC, a program within the NC Community College System that oversees the development the development and maintenance of apprenticeship programs throughout North Carolina. Individual employers can choose to host apprenticeship programs, and receive approval from the state to do so. Unfortunately North Carolina’s policymakers haven’t yet utilized the full potential of such apprenticeship programs, the report said.
“Employers depend on ApprenticeshipNC on everything from developing programs that train workers to providing consultations on recruiting, screening, and testing of potential apprentices,” said Victoria Crouse, author of the report. “A much needed investment in the work of ApprenticeshipNC can yield many more quality jobs across the state, as well as provide opportunities for mobility and prosperity for individuals, and their communities.”
Last year, North Carolina policymakers allocated $500,000 for expanding apprenticeship opportunities in the state, increasing the net appropriation for the program to $1.4 million for the 2016- 2017 fiscal year. Despite this increase, net appropriations for apprenticeships are $74,446 less than they were three years ago in the 2013-2014 FY budget.
There are policy options available to both increase the number of apprenticeship slots and encourage employers to offer these slots, the report said:
- North Carolina could fund a portion of the cost incurred by employers for placing apprentices directly and reduce the costs by expanding training funded through ApprenticeshipNC. Traditional funding models for apprenticeship programs place the primary financial cost on employers who are responsible for covering the cost of training, supervision, and salaries for apprentices. Due to the high costs of these programs, employers can only provide a limited number of apprenticeship opportunities that do not meet the demand among job seekers.
- North Carolina could expand employer recruitment efforts to areas that have traditionally seen little to no apprenticeship openings. Marketing and recruitment has shown promise in ensuring the diversity of applicant pools and occupational pathways. By building relationships with employers in these areas, state leaders can ensure workers in all regions of the state have an equal opportunity to engage in apprenticeship programs.
- The role of ApprenticeshipNC could be expanded to include partnerships among industry leaders to discuss competency standards for apprenticeship positions, identify occupations in industries for which new apprenticeship positions could be created, and discuss how existing apprenticeships can be improved. It is critical that such efforts target industries and occupations that place a high priority on outreach to low-wage workers in order to increase earnings for more North Carolinians, particularly those who would otherwise not have access to training and a career pathway.
“While there are several routes our policymakers can take to improve our state apprenticeship program, the most direct way for North Carolina to increase the use of apprenticeships—and in turn create quality jobs and grow wages—is to increase public funding for apprenticeship initiatives across the state,” Crouse said. “These funds can subsidize an appropriate portion of the cost to employers as well as the operations of apprenticeship placement, trainings, and evaluation.”
Click here to read the whole report, which includes demographic data and spotlights on successful apprenticeship programs.