Youth apprenticeship initiatives

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 field (Bulanda 2015*, Abell-Lerman 2015). Most formalized apprenticeships in the United States serve adults who have graduated from high school, often through Registered Apprenticeship programs (Eichorst 2015*). 

Expected Beneficial Outcomes (Rated)

  • Increased employability

Other Potential Beneficial Outcomes

  • Improved social emotional skills

Evidence of Effectiveness

Youth apprenticeship programs are a suggested strategy to increase employment and gain employment skills (Hamilton-Lerman 2014, PIIE-Aivazova 2013, OECD-Sonnet 2010), particularly for disconnected youth (Upjohn-Hollenbeck 2008*). Assessments of apprenticeship-like programs for high risk juvenile offenders suggest increases in youth employment and GED attendance (Schaeffer 2014). After school apprenticeship-like programs that introduce disadvantaged high school students to trades or other careers may improve social and emotional development (Halpern 2006*), and promote alternatives to violence and paths out of poverty (Bulanda 2015*). Countries with strong apprenticeship programs have lower youth unemployment rates than countries without strong programs (OECD-Sonnet 2010), and participation in Registered Apprenticeships appears to lead to increases in lifetime earnings (Mathematica-Reed 2012, Upjohn-Hollenbeck 2008*). However, additional evidence is needed to confirm effects of youth apprenticeship programs.

Impact on Disparities

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-olds (Urban-Karas 2016) since the mid-1990s (Abell-Lerman 2015). As of a 2013 report, only 0.3% of the United States workforce participated in adult or youth apprenticeship programs (IZA-Lerman 2013).

Citations - Evidence

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

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

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

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

Citations - Implementation Examples

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

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

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

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.

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