Youth apprenticeship initiatives

Evidence Rating  
Evidence rating: Expert Opinion

Strategies with this rating are recommended by credible, impartial experts but have limited research documenting effects; further research, often with stronger designs, is needed to confirm effects.

Health Factors  
Date last updated

Youth apprenticeship programs provide high school students with professional opportunities that combine academic and on-the-job training and mentorship. Apprenticeships include classroom-based vocational education in a high school or technical college setting that is related to paid on-the-job work and connects participants to instructors who also act as mentors. Youth apprenticeships are offered in a variety of fields. Training requirements and applicable government or industry-recognized standards vary by field1, 2. Most formalized apprenticeships in the United States serve adults who have graduated from high school, often through Registered Apprenticeship programs3

What could this strategy improve?

Expected Benefits

Our evidence rating is based on the likelihood of achieving these outcomes:

  • Increased employability

Potential Benefits

Our evidence rating is not based on these outcomes, but these benefits may also be possible:

  • Improved social emotional skills

What does the research say about effectiveness?

Youth apprenticeship programs are a suggested strategy to increase employment and gain employment skills4, 5, 6, particularly for disconnected youth7. Assessments of apprenticeship-like programs for high risk juvenile offenders suggest increases in youth employment and GED attendance8. After school apprenticeship-like programs that introduce disadvantaged high school students to trades or other careers may improve social and emotional development9, and promote alternatives to violence and paths out of poverty1. Countries with strong apprenticeship programs have lower youth unemployment rates than countries without strong programs6, and participation in Registered Apprenticeships appears to lead to increases in lifetime earnings7, 10. However, additional evidence is needed to confirm effects of youth apprenticeship programs.

How could this strategy impact health disparities? This strategy is rated likely to decrease disparities.
Implementation Examples

A few states have formalized youth apprenticeship programs; Georgia and Wisconsin, for example, have had programs in place for 16- to 19-year-olds11 since the mid-1990s2. As of a 2013 report, only 0.3% of the United States workforce participated in adult or youth apprenticeship programs12.


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1 Bulanda 2015 - Bulanda JJ, Tellis D, Tyson McCrea K. Cocreating a social work apprenticeship with disadvantaged African American youth: A best-practices after-school curriculum. Smith College Studies in Social Work. 2015;85(3):285-310.

2 Abell-Lerman 2015 - Lerman RI, Packer A. Youth apprenticeship: A hopeful approach for improving outcomes for Baltimore youth. The Abell Report. 2015;28(2).

3 Eichorst 2015 - Eichhorst W, Rodriguez-Planas N, Schmidl R, Zimmermann KF. A road map to vocational education and training in industrialized countries. ILR Review. 2015;68(2):314-337.

4 Hamilton-Lerman 2014 - Lerman R. Expanding apprenticeship opportunities in the United States. The Hamilton Project; 2014.

5 PIIE-Aivazova 2013 - Aivazova N. Role of apprenticeships in combating youth unemployment in Europe and the United States. Washington, D.C.: Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE); 2013.

6 OECD-Sonnet 2010 - OECD. Off to a good start? Jobs for youth. OECD Publishing; 2010.

7 Upjohn-Hollenbeck 2008 - Hollenbeck K. State use of workforce system net impact estimates and rates of return. Kalamazoo: W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research; 2008.

8 Schaeffer 2014 - Schaeffer CM, Henggeler SW, Ford JD, et al. RCT of a promising vocational/employment program for high-risk juvenile offenders. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment. 2014;46(2):134-143.

9 Halpern 2006 - Halpern R. After-school matters in Chicago: Apprenticeship as a model for youth programming. Youth & Society. 2006;38(2):203-35.

10 Mathematica-Reed 2012 - Reed D, Liu AYH, Kleinman R, et al. An effectiveness assessment and cost-benefit analysis of registered apprenticeship in 10 states. Oakland, CA: Mathematica Policy Research; 2012.

11 Urban-Karas 2016 - Karas A, Lerman RI. Implementing financial education in youth apprenticeship programs. Washington, D.C.: The Urban Institute; 2016.

12 IZA-Lerman 2013 - Lerman RI. Skill development in middle level occupations: The role of apprenticeship training. Bonn, Germany: Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA); 2013.