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The Urban Institute released a Brief with information on what in their words, “we as a country can do about unemployment.  The brief, "What to Do about the New Unemployment", is part of the institute's Unemployment and Recovery Project and discusses ways to jumpstart the job market, and details how younger and older workers are faring in and after the recession.  Within it, Registered Apprenticeship is highlighted as a “way of integrating education and training that’s linked directly to careers.” 



Specifically, Urban Institute fellow Robert Lerman proposes the establishment of a $5,000 tax credit to "businesses that add apprenticeships."   Lerman also proposed expanding the Office of Apprenticeship based on evidence that shows "...gains from apprenticeship far exceed even the gains for technical training in community colleges."


Read the ful PDF version by clicking the report above, or go to the Urban Institute for the full report in HTML or PDF.


Below is the transcript of an article and accompanying interview American University Economics Professor, and Urban Institue Fellow Bob Lerman gave on CNN's "Education Overtime" - a seven week series that focuses on the conversations surrounding education issues that affect students, teachers, parents and the community.

If not college, then what?

(CNN) -- At dinner tables throughout the United States, there are tough conversations about the exploding cost of college, the rough job market, the pain of debt.

For parents and students, it adds up to the same question: Is college worth it?

But American University economics Professor Robert Lerman is asking something different: If college isn't worth it, what else is out there?

Lerman, an Urban Institute fellow, has studied youth unemployment for decades, and thinks the United States ought to try an updated version of an old technique for education and employment: apprenticeships.

They're not the same as an after-school fast food job or a summer internship at dad's office, he said. Apprenticeships require skill development in a workplace over a number of years. The education, which might be supplemented by classroom training, leads to a credential -- maybe a title, certification or diploma -- that proves mastery of a skill. During that time, apprentices are paid, and employers are getting another worker.

"In many countries, apprenticeship training and mastery is thought of as a big advantage in innovation -- you have people seeing things, but have skills to understand them, make adjustments and achieve high quality," Lerman said.

It's been a long time since apprenticeship dominated in the United States. Despite the Obama administration's focus on community colleges, which often house workplace-learning programs, apprenticeship programs draw few government resources, and reach relatively few fields, mostly construction and manufacturing.

In a paper published last year, Lerman said about 468,000 people were in 27,000 apprenticeship programs registered with the U.S. Department of Labor in 2008. That was about .3% of the workforce at the time.

Up to 1 million more were in unregistered programs, the report said.

But in Switzerland, Austria and Germany, 50% to 70% of young people are trained through apprentice programs, according to "Training Tomorrow's Workforce."

Lerman suggests the United States follow the example of countries that developed apprenticeships in fields including health care, information technology, finance, advanced manufacturing and maritime occupations.

But that means getting through to politicians, educators, students and parents first. A Pew Research Center study published in May said 94% of parents who responded expected their kids to go to college.

The Pew study "Is College Worth It?" pointed out that the median gap in yearly earnings between those with only a high school diploma and those who have a college degree is nearly $20,000, according Census Bureau data from 2010.

But students doing poorly in high school aren't likely to thrive in a college classroom, Lerman said, at least not right away.

More options that don't require a traditional college education might help lead people to higher-paying jobs, he said.

"The fact is that no matter how quickly we move on expanding apprenticeship, college and academics are still going to have a big draw, and that's fine," he said.

"But I think what we want to see is that diversification of routes to rewarding careers."

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Here's what Lerman had to say about changing the way we think about paths for students after high school.

CNN: What is apprenticeship, and how is it different than an after-school job or a summer internship?

Lerman: It is far more in-depth than any internship and far more structured than a standard job. It involves in-depth learning on the job, as well as related instruction in classroom work. The employer has obligation to train the individual; employers are getting production out of the apprentice. The apprentice is also being paid, and usually, almost always, there is an upward trajectory of pay over a two- to four-year period.

Alain Ducasse's Weapon Against Poverty: Cooking Classes

CNN: How did apprenticeships play a larger role in our past in the United States, and why did it fade away?

Lerman: I don't think we ever had the scale of apprenticeship training that existed in other countries. We have become so academic-based in our thinking that we don't take seriously the workplace learning component and occupational component.

The whole field of vocational education is a very contested one. Some people see vocational education as something to divert people away from higher goals of education. We went through a period when school-based vocational education, people argued, was used to discourage minority groups from going to college.

CNN: How could we implement programs that would avoid tracking certain classes, races or ethnicities into non-college programs?

Lerman: I'm personally not worried. If you look at the college graduation rate of African American males, it's well under 20%. Let's say we can double that, which is not easy to do -- the other people (who don't graduate) should not be doomed to bad careers, nor should people be pushed only one way. Sameness is not equality.

I see entering apprenticeship as entirely voluntarily. You can have career-focused education and training that provides education at very high levels with outlets for people to move back into a purely academic programs if they so choose.

Some of the very good programs, it's harder to get into an apprenticeship than to get into elite colleges. We need more good options. (With paid apprenticeships,) there's incentive. That reward would come much faster than trying to stay in school for 16, 18 years and then maybe getting a good job.

I am a professor of economics and I do not discourage people from taking higher education courses, but there are so many opportunities to do that over time. I met, for example, in Germany, a sales person in a steel mill. Before he went to college, he went through a three-year apprenticeship at the steel mill in sales management. When we went to college, college was a lot easier. He had all that background. He was probably more mature then. He could recognize which things were going to be helpful to him.

Study: For grads of color, it's prison or unemploymentVideo

CNN: Is part of the issue the word apprentice? It's tied to certain professions -- manufacturing, construction -- even if it describes work-based learning in fields like medicine and teaching.

Lerman: It doesn't have as good a connotation as in other countries. The current administration is using "career pathways." The problem is that "career pathways" is a vague term. It isn't clear you're doing something in a serious and concerted way.

An apprentice who completes a program, they have genuine expertise. That gives people a sense that, 'If I mastered this field, I can continue learning. I can learn other things as well.' To me, one of the great advantages is the sense of confidence it can give.

Ideally, we should try to make more and more fields have that high quality of productivity, but also a sense of pride. People in the welding field should have that same sense. Laser welding, the design of welding, all of that can be very complicated, technical, advanced, productive and rewarding.

Maybe we should have a contest. What name would capture the full notion, and perhaps be considered snazzier than apprenticeship?

Community colleges step in to fill 'skills gap'

CNN: Is there an opening for apprenticeship programs now that hasn't existed in the recent past?

Lerman: College costs are rising dramatically, not only for individual families, but for governments. We're seeing increasing concern that many people are not doing well at high school levels. There is starting to be an openness to these kinds of initiatives, but you cannot understate the purely academic bias that is existing in policymakers and a strong education lobby.

A public initiative has to recognize it's a very different model than supporting slots in community college or training program. What apprenticeship investments require is marketing and technical assistance to get employers to adopt apprenticeship programs. That's where government investment needs to be.

I'm not trying to knock college, especially for the broader learning you can get if you devote yourself to it ... but we have to create a wider range of options for people.




Registered Pre-Apprenticeship in Massachusetts


The Massachusetts Division of Apprentice Training has been a SAC state since 1945. We have registered over 50,000 apprentices since then and currently have a little over 5000 active apprentices registered in 2011. There are Responsible Employer Ordinances (REO’s) in Massachusetts which require contractors to be affiliated with a joint or non-joint registered apprentice program as a condition of submitting a responsive bid on selected public works projects.  There is also EEO language included in the REO’s that require better utilization of women and minorities.

Just like other states our division finalized our regulations and submitted them to the OA for approval this past year.  One of the additional items that we submitted for approval was registered pre-apprentice language to address the outreach requirements of REO’s. The purpose of the regulation is to establish registered pre-apprentice programs that are better aligned with registered programs and to provide better outreach opportunities for the public and program compliance.  As we know anyone can open up shop as a pre-apprenticeship program without having a connection to a registered apprentice program. There can be an expectation by the pre-apprentice participants that they will become apprentices after graduation however in order to become apprentices they will need access to jobs which registered apprentice programs can provide. The lack of coordination between the programs has resulted in pre-apprentice graduates not being properly prepared to enter an apprentice program.  Because of this disconnect it was determined that there needed to be a registered pre-apprentice program component. 

7.05: Registration for Pre-Apprentices and Pre-Apprentice Programs

(1) All registered pre-apprentice programs must comply with the following standards:

(a) The pre-apprentice program must have an organized, written plan embodying the terms and conditions of training and supervision of one or more pre-apprentices in an apprenticeable occupation, and a written agreement with a registered apprentice sponsor. The agreement with the registered apprentice training sponsor must provide that graduating pre-apprentices will be provided with a predetermined form of articulated credit if they are accepted into the registered apprentice program through the program intake procedures. 

(b) The pre-apprentice program standards must contain provisions that address:

(1) The related classroom training of the pre-apprentice in a skilled occupation.

(2) The determination of the appropriate curriculum for the program standards is made by the program sponsor, subject to approval by the Division of the determination as appropriate to the apprenticeable occupation for which the program standards are registered.

(3) Provision for organized, related instruction in technical subjects related to the occupation. Approximately 150 hours for each year of pre-apprenticeship is recommended. This instruction in technical subjects may be accomplished through media such as classroom, occupational or industry courses, electronic media, or other instruction approved by the Director.

(4) Periodic review and evaluation of the pre-apprentice's performance in related instruction; and the maintenance of appropriate progress records.

(5) Adequate and safe equipment and facilities for training and supervision, and safety training for pre-apprentices and in related instruction.

(6) The placement of a pre-apprentice under a written Pre-Apprenticeship Agreement as prescribed by the Division.

(7) Assurance of qualified training personnel and adequate supervision.

(8) Recognition for successful completion of pre-apprenticeship evidenced by an appropriate certificate issued by the pre-apprentice program sponsor.

(9) Contact information (name, address, telephone number, and e-mail address if appropriate) for the appropriate individual with authority under the program to receive, process and make disposition of complaints.

(10) The conditions under which the apprentice program may discontinue its relationship with the pre-apprentice program.

(2) The pre-apprentice sponsor shall provide a listing of the pre-apprentice program graduates for each class to the Division which shall include, for each of the graduates, the Name, Address, Date of Birth, Beginning and End Dates of Training, and, on a voluntary basis, Social Security Number.

(3) The Division will assign a unique ID number and enter each pre-apprentice into the Division’s Apprentice Tracking Database in order to track future migration into a registered apprentice program.

(4)  At any time during the period of the pre-apprentice program registration, the Deputy Director may cancel the pre-apprentice program where he or she deems appropriate.

How to get started as a registered pre-apprentice program


  • To register a pre-apprenticeship program with the Division of Apprentice Training the applicants should follow the process below. The pre-apprentice program should provide the graduates with the skills needed to successfully pass the interview process in order to enter a full registered apprentice program. The fully registered apprentice sponsor will be either a single employer or a multi-employer group. These sponsors are the ones who eventually provide the jobs.


  • Keep in mind that pre-apprentices are not allowed to work on construction projects until they are full apprentices.


  • The pre-apprentice program sponsor applicant should first meet with a willing registered apprentice sponsor and develop a memorandum of agreement which must include a pre-determined amount of articulated credit that will be given to each graduate who successfully enters the registered apprentice program.


  • Registered sponsors can have more than one memorandum of agreement with registered pre-apprentice programs. Registered apprentice programs can utilize registered pre-apprenticeship to enhance their EEO outreach efforts.


  • The registered apprentice sponsor must approve the curriculum of the pre-apprentice applicant in order to determine the proper amount of credit that will be articulated between the parties in the memorandum of agreement.


  • If the registered apprentice sponsor withdraws its agreement with the pre-apprentice sponsor, the pre-apprentice will loose its registration with that sponsor and the Division of Apprentice Training. If the registered pre-apprentice sponsor has memorandum of agreements with other programs those memorandum of agreements will not be affected.


  • The applicant can start the registration process once the memorandum of agreement is signed and the curriculum has been approved by contacting the Division of Apprentice Training @ 617-626-5409 and requesting an application package.


  • The pre-apprentice sponsor will document the name, address, date of birth, phone number social security number of each graduate along with the program partner name, term of apprenticeship, graduation date and affirmative action questionnaire on a form supplied by the Division of Apprentice Training.


  • Each graduates’ information will be entered into the apprentice tracking database so that when a graduate interviews and is selected by the articulation partner to enter an apprentice program the articulated credit will be identified and credited to the new apprentices record.


  • There are no fees associated with pre-apprenticeship which means that there are no apprentice photo ID’s and no access to public works projects.


As an example, the registered pre-apprentice model is being utilized by the Boston Housing Authority (BHA).  They will be using it to introduce residents of the BHA onto multiple projects they are managing.  Their partners are the Boston Building Trades Unions and their apprentice programs. They will partner to run an eight week registered pre-apprentice program which will be part of an overall nine month evaluation and support program.

 Submitted to John Griffin


David Wallace, Deputy Director

Department of Labor Standards / Division of Apprentice Training

Phone 617-626-5407   Fax 617-626-5427


Apprenticeship Maryland was recently featured on Maryland Public Television’s (MPT) “Your Money and Business” program.  Maryland Apprenticeship and Training Director Jeff Beeson joined host Jeff Salkin to discuss how apprenticeship continues to serve Maryland’s dynamic workforce.  The 8 minute segment included discussion of how the Registered Apprenticeship (RA) model works; Maryland’s efforts to advance the RA model in 21st century industries including healthcare, information technology, and the growing service sector; and the benefits of coupling completion of a Registered Apprenticeship program with a 2-year degree.  Great stuff!


Watch the full episode. See more Your Money and Business.






 Apprenticeship Maryland Action Summit


Apprenticeship Maryland is committed to strengthening Maryland’s workforce by supporting employers and labor organizations in establishing industry driven apprenticeship and training programs designed to enhance job performance, increase employee retention, and provide stable employment opportunities for citizens in and around Maryland. 


For those of us involved and familiar with apprenticeship, this mission is familiar and we have a working knowledge of the benefits associated with structured training and the opportunity to “earn while you learn.”  Unfortunately, many are unaware of the benefits of apprenticeship, or mistakenly identify it as an alternative to college giving it only minor consideration as a primary tool in workforce policy.  In Maryland, we have re-branded and re-energized our efforts to expand the scope and value of apprenticeship and have been greeted with very positive responses, and many workforce partners beginning to understand the full value of apprenticeship and joining us in introducing the concept to businesses representing a multitude of industries.  Under the leadership of our Commissioner of Labor and Industry, we have broadened the scope of our outreach efforts and saw an opportunity to unite a number of stakeholders together in support of apprenticeship. 


On June 1, 2011 over 200 people participated in the inaugural Apprenticeship Maryland Action Summit at Towson University representing a variety of organizations including business, apprenticeship, workforce, education, and government.  The meeting provided the opportunity to reintroduce apprenticeship in Maryland as a 21st Century workforce strategy capitalizing on the experience and expertise of a dynamic group of individuals with the shared goal of establishing strategies designed to strengthen apprenticeship training through practical policy recommendations.  The event was kicked off with introductory remarks by our Lt. Governor Anthony Brown, Secretary of the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation Alex Sanchez, and Commissioner Ron DeJuliis.  Guest speakers included Dr. Robert Lerman, Urban Institute Fellow and Economics Professor at American University and Lenita Jacobs-Simmons, Region Two Administrator for USDOL, all who shared a commitment to the importance of expanding apprenticeship as a tool to both business and employees. 


The Event included facilitated break-out sessions along five critical areas: Aligning P-12 Education and Apprenticeship Programs, Expanding Higher Education and Apprenticeship Partnerships, Developing Apprenticeship in Non-Traditional Occupations, Aligning the Workforce System and Apprenticeship, and Meeting the Needs of Traditional Apprenticeship Programs.  Each group developed a set of recommendations that will be synthesized into a report later this summer that will serve as Apprenticeship Maryland’s Strategic Business Plan for FY 12-13.  The following is a condensed list of specific recommendations coming from the event:


  1. Enhance outreach and education efforts to employers and job seekers
  2. Enhance the web presence of apprenticeship and training to provide accurate and timely information
  3. Provide training to local Workforce staff to serve the needs of job seekers and businesses
  4. Identify stable funding sources to maintain apprenticeship staff and enhance outreach efforts
  5. Expand the pipeline from K-12 to apprenticeship and link to industry certifications
  6. Establish regular regionally based apprenticeship career fairs
  7. Convene industry specific Roundtable meetings between business, workforce, education, and apprenticeship sponsors
  8. Improve data tracking and reporting to provide real-time apprenticeship statistics
  9. Expand partnerships between apprenticeship and higher education to standardize curriculum and create formalized transfer opportunities.
  10. Develop opportunities to provide credit options for apprenticeship programs highlighting career pipelines for advancement within specific occupations
  11. Develop business model to present apprenticeship to non-traditional businesses interested in enhancing staff skill levels
  12. Ensure that apprenticeship programs maintain rigor and produce highly skilled employees
  13. Host annual Apprenticeship Conference
  14. Incentivize apprenticeship participation for Maryland businesses


In 2012, Maryland will celebrate 50 years of apprenticeship and a second summit will be held not only to celebrate our past, but to take these recommendations and develop a formalized business model to address each of the recommendations and establish goals and outcome measurements that will serve as our roadmap for the future.