About the Study
In 2019, the Chief Evaluation Office (CEO) partnered with the Employment and Training Administration (ETA) to fund contractors Urban Institute, Mathematica Policy Research, and Capital Research Corporation to design and conduct analysis to build and expand the evidence portfolio on apprenticeships, including models, components, partnerships, and strategies that often include the work of community colleges.
Specific studies include:
- Implementation evaluation of Scaling Apprenticeship through Sector-Based Strategies and Closing the Skills Gap grants
- Feasibility Assessment for Impact Evaluation
- Evaluation of VETS Apprenticeship Pilot
- Evaluation of Youth Readiness Apprenticeship Grants
- Assessment of State Capacity of Registered Apprenticeship programs
This Department of Labor-funded study was a result of the annual process to determine the Department’s research priorities for the upcoming year. It contributes to the labor evidence-base to inform programs and policies that impact community colleges, apprenticeships, and employment and training. The project also addresses Departmental strategic goals and priorities.
- Department of Labor Evaluation Design Pre-Specification Plans (Evaluation Design Report, December 2023)
- Apprenticeship Evidence-Building Portfolio Implementation Evaluation Design (Evaluation Design Report, December 2023)
- How the COVID-19 Pandemic Affected State Apprenticeship Systems Takeaways from Eight States (Issue Brief, September 2023)
- State Incentives to Promote and Support Apprenticeship Takeaways from Eight States (Issue Brief, September 2023)
- Women in Apprenticeships and Nontraditional Occupations in the United States: Apprenticeship Evidence-Building Portfolio (Research Report, September 2023)
- Understanding the Capacity of State Apprenticeship Systems: Apprenticeship Evidence-Building Portfolio (Report, February 2023)
- Models of Youth Registered Apprenticeship Expansion: Evidence from the Youth Apprenticeship Readiness Grants (Issue Brief, February 2023)
- Youth Apprenticeship in the United States: Apprenticeship Evidence-Building Portfolio (Report, February 2023)
- Implementation Evaluation of the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) Apprenticeship Pilot (Final Report, December 2022)
- What is the current evidence on apprenticeships, including various models or typologies of apprenticeships, and effectiveness of those strategies?
- What strategies are being used to develop new apprenticeship programs or expand existing programs?
- What strategies, models, and partnerships are promising for different populations?
- What types of evaluations can be conducted on the impact of apprenticeship on participants, particularly those implemented by Scaling Apprenticeship Through Sector-based Strategies grants, Closing the Skills Gap grants, and other DOL apprenticeship grants?
How the COVID-19 Pandemic Affected State Apprenticeship Systems
Leveraging technology allowed apprenticeship administrators to pivot their work online quickly and easily and to streamline work processes.
By working virtually, state apprenticeship agencies continued supporting partners and expanded their reach and responsiveness.
Training providers and instructors faced logistical challenges transitioning in-person training online. State administrators noted that many of their training partners did not offer online apprenticeship training prior to the pandemic and had to quickly adapt.
Online learning was viewed as offering greater flexibility than in-person learning, despite certain challenges in implementing hybrid or remote learning options.
Online learning may not be a substitute for in-person hands-on learning in all industries, but it may offer opportunities to expand apprenticeships to new industries. Although most administrators interviewed for the study mentioned that hybrid and remote learning opportunities will continue post-COVID, five of the eight administrators interviewed noted the need to retain hands-on learning components in-person for certain apprenticeship programs.
Low wages, long apprenticeship programs, and COVID-19 disruptions may have contributed to less participant interest in apprenticeship.
State Incentives to Promote and Support Apprenticeship
Incentives are helpful for attracting employers to apprenticeships and expanding access to apprenticeship for underrepresented populations.
Challenges in the administration and implementation of incentives include the lack of awareness of incentives among employers, the inability to attract certain kinds of employers to use incentives, insufficient resources for marketing and advertising, and the limitations of upfront funding in addressing apprenticeship incompletion.
Incentive types include grants, reimbursements, and tax credits. Incentive recipients include employers, education and training entities, intermediaries, and workforce boards or community-based organizations, each of which can serve as an apprenticeship program sponsor.
Women in Apprenticeships and Nontraditional Occupations in the United States: Apprenticeship Evidence-Building Portfolio
The following key takeaways emerged from the analysis and can inform future efforts:
- Women remain underrepresented in apprenticeships, despite their numbers increasing over time. Childcare and harassment are among the top barriers to retention of women in registered apprenticeship programs.
- The share of women apprentices was lower than men for the age group 16 to 34 but was higher than men’s share for the age groups older than 35 years old, including 5 percent of women apprentices ages 55 and older.
- Pre-apprenticeship programs include a larger share of women than in apprenticeship programs. This suggests that pre-apprenticeships may provide a more open and representative pathway for women to access apprenticeship and employment in non-traditional occupations.
Continued areas of focus in the descriptive study include the following:
- The different training models used by grantees to deliver pre-apprenticeship, apprenticeship, and non-traditional occupational training programs to women, including women-only cohorts.
- The strategies used to recruit and retain women from historically underrepresented communities, including but not limited to women of color, women with disabilities, women at or below the federal poverty line, formerly incarcerated women, immigrant women, transgender women, and women who live in rural geographic areas. The study will also document supportive services and whether grantees provide employers and other partners with diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) technical assistance.
- The engagement of grant partners, who support efforts to increase the number of women in apprenticeships and nontraditional occupations.
State Apprenticeship Capacity Assessment
- DOL has invested millions of dollars in apprenticeships. Since 2016, DOL has invested more than $960 million in apprenticeship systems and programs through grants and contracts. DOL also oversees and funds state activities under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), and WIOA was reported to be the most common source of financial support for states’ Registered Apprenticeship efforts among the SAE grantees, including funding for individual training accounts and on-the-job learning.
- Employer engagement is a major challenge for state apprenticeship systems. States that received federal State Apprenticeship Expansion grants implemented a variety of approaches to directly engage employers to help address the challenge; these approaches include hosting convenings to bolster recruitment, providing one-on-one interaction with employers to facilitate program development and increase buy-in, and focusing efforts on directly addressing employer misconceptions through outreach.
- The racial and gender diversity of apprentices did not increase between 2015 and 2019. Although the high percentage of missing data in RAPIDS complicates an analysis of racial diversity (including many participants’ refusal to identify their race), the racial and gender diversity of apprentices has not changed a great deal nationally from 2015 to 2019, based on the data available.
- The share of youth apprentices among registered apprentices did not change between 2015 and 2019. Despite continued investment in youth apprenticeship programs, the percentage of youth apprentices in the 2019 RAPIDS data was consistent with the percentage in the 2015 RAPIDS data (36 percent), though the number of youth apprentices did increase by more than 50,000 in that time.
- States are expanding apprenticeships to meet the needs of rural areas and communities impacted by the opioid crisis. Data indicate that some states focused apprenticeship expansion in rural areas on increasing the supply of health care workers, as well as closing skill gaps in the health care industry. In addition to a focus on rural areas, states have also sought ways to address the opioid crisis through economic policies, such as the use of federal and state grants to establish targeted apprenticeship programs, including those for community health workers, as well as the use of Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselors.
- Financial incentives to offset the employer costs associated with apprenticeship were reported to be more widely available in SAA states than in OA states. Fifty percent of SAA states reported the availability of tax credits or other tax savings, compared to only 23 percent of OA states. Similarly, 18 percent of SAA states reported the availability of local wage subsidies, compared to only 4 percent of OA states.
Models of Youth Registered Apprenticeship Expansion: Evidence from the Youth Apprenticeship Readiness Grants
The following key takeaways emerged from the analysis and can inform future efforts:
- Secondary school-based registered apprenticeship model. Registered apprenticeship programs are sponsored by or organized around secondary schools, including secondary career and technical education programs that provide career-specific academic and technical instruction. These programs target students ages 16 through 18 years of age.
- Postsecondary school–based registered apprenticeship model. Registered apprenticeship programs are sponsored by or organized around colleges or universities and targeted 19 to 24 year olds.
- Intermediary model. An organization called an intermediary supports registered apprenticeship programs by assisting in program design, coordinating partners, providing program supports, and in some cases, sponsoring a registered apprenticeship program.
- Regionally coordinated registered apprenticeship model. An organization or group of organizations are charged with expanding registered apprenticeship and coordinating partners in a specific region around regional assets and resources.
- Youth-supporting mixed-age registered apprenticeship model. Registered apprenticeship programs that normally register adults (age 25 and older) are supported to be more inclusive of youth apprentices (age 16 to 24).
The five models do not encompass an exhaustive typology of the YARG grantees’ activities in expanding youth apprenticeship, nor are the models mutually exclusive. An individual YARG grantee might implement several of these models as a part of its grant activities, depending on its partners and the needs of the registered apprenticeship programs it supports.
The analysis suggests three primary program features for understanding the apprenticeship expansion models implemented by the grantees:
- Youth populations that grant projects and registered apprenticeship programs serve, particularly whether youth are younger (ages 16 to 18) or older (ages 19 to 24), whether they are in school or out of school at the time they are registered, and from a population traditionally underserved or underrepresented in the apprenticeship system, such as women, racial and ethnic minorities, and people with disabilities.
- Registered apprenticeship program sponsor and the role of the grantee. A program sponsor is responsible for operating registered apprenticeship programs. Employers often serve as program sponsors, but schools and colleges, intermediary organizations, joint labor-management organizations, and YARG grantees can also serve as sponsors.
- Educational partner and its role in the grant project. All YARG grantees must have an educational partner to provide related technical instruction (RTI), or off-the-job classroom-based training, for the youth registered apprentices. Some educational partners only provide RTI, while others serve larger partner and service coordination roles for registered apprenticeship programs.
Youth Apprenticeship in the United States
The following key takeaways emerged from the analysis and can inform future efforts:
- Youth apprentices are already relatively common in the registered apprenticeship system, comprising between 30 to 40 percent of all registered apprentices in any given year, although a much smaller share of apprentices are 16 to 18 years old between 1996 and 2021.
- Most (96.5 percent in 2021) youth apprentices are registered in programs that serve both adults and youth rather than youth apprenticeship programs that exclusively serve youth.
- YARG grantees are working with a variety of different partners, including required education and training, employer, industry, as well as other optional partners. Grantees planning to include smaller numbers of apprentices tend to have fewer partnerships in place and will handle most services and activities themselves. The smallest YARG grantees expect to serve 200 apprentices.
Continued areas of focus in the implementation study include the following:
- The different training models used by grantees to deliver registered apprenticeship programs to high school youth (ages 16 to 18) compared with older youth, and the prevalence of programs designed exclusively for youth (as opposed to adult (25 and older) apprenticeship programs that also include younger participants ages 18 to 24)
- The relationship between registered programs supported by the Youth Apprenticeship Readiness Grant program and existing apprenticeship and work-based learning programs. Youth Apprenticeship Readiness grantees are required to support apprenticeship programs that are registered with the Office of Apprenticeship or a state apprenticeship agency; however, because many youth apprenticeship programs are unregistered, another area of interest will be to understand how grantees formalize and build on existing unregistered programs and training systems.
- The evolving role of grant partners. Because previous literature indicates partnerships are often important in registered apprenticeship programs in general and youth apprenticeship programs in particular, the implementation study will track the formation, evolution, and role of grant partners.
Evaluation of VETS Apprenticeship Pilot
The Apprenticeship Pilot was implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic, which put pressure on staff, TSMs and their spouses, and employers, and created challenges for placement. Despite the unique circumstances, the following key takeaways inform future efforts:
- Remote outreach informed a large number of TSMs and spouses about the pilot. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, many TAP workshops took place virtually. Thus, more TSMs and their spouses were informed of the Apprenticeship Pilot than initially anticipated by program staff. In total, 36,979 TSMs were briefed in TAP workshops worldwide. Despite the benefits of remote recruitment, the shift to remote briefings were reported to have increased the onus on TSMs to reach out for additional information given less in-person access to counselors during or immediately after the TAP workshops.
- The recruitment process faced challenges. Despite informing nearly 37,000 TSMs about the pilot, only 1,492 participants were enrolled. A lack of understanding of apprenticeships and the pilot was reported as common among TSMs and their spouses, and staff interviewed indicated that prospective participants were presented with many competing alternatives for post-separation employment. These factors led to a revised workshop approach, which allocated more time to describe the pilot and its goals, and revised messaging about the pilot and apprenticeship.
- Participants were primarily TSMs, male, and early in their careers. Recruitment of spouses was limited (2.3 percent) compared to the 97.7 percent TSMs recruited. Participants were also predominantly male (78.2 percent). They were 30.3 years old on average, 56.8 percent had a high school diploma as their highest level of education, and 39.3 percent were first termers, those at the lowest pay grades who were earlier in their military careers.
- Participant engagement with counselors varied. On average, participants engaged with counselors 4.1 times. About 60 percent of participants had three or fewer engagements.
- The pilot utilized multiple employer recruitment strategies. The pilot initially identified apprenticeship opportunities for participants using Apprenticeship.gov, a DOL website listing apprenticeship openings, plus a single employer outreach coordinator. Later, the pilot added remote job fairs as a strategy and hired two additional outreach coordinators, who were tasked with engaging directly with potential employers to match occupational, locational, and other participant requirements.
- Staff turnover was a challenge. Through October 2020, 35 individuals held 16 counselor positions and 4 individuals held the pilot manager position. The program implemented new training and support for counselors in response to this challenge, but turnover was reported to have created obstacles to maintaining continuity of service delivery.
Evaluation Design Report
Urban Institute. (2023). Department of Labor Evaluation Design Pre-Specification Plans. Chief Evaluation Office, U.S. Department of Labor.
Evaluation Design Report
Eyster, L. Trutko, J. Trutko, A. (2023). Urban Institute. Apprenticeship Evidence-Building Portfolio Implementation Evaluation Design. Chief Evaluation Office, U.S. Department of Labor.
Ruggiero, R., Krantz, A. (2023). Urban Institute. How the COVID-19 Pandemic Affected State Apprenticeship Systems Takeaways from Eight States. Chief Evaluation Office, U.S. Department of Labor.
Spaulding, S., Petrov, S. (2023). Urban Institute. State Incentives to Promote and Support Apprenticeship Takeaways from Eight States. Chief Evaluation Office, U.S. Department of Labor.
Butrica, B.A., Kuehn, D. Sirois, M. (2023). Urban Institute. Women in Apprenticeships and Nontraditional Occupations in the United States: Apprenticeship Evidence-Building Portfolio. Chief Evaluation Office, U.S. Department of Labor.
Harrington, A., Ruggiero, R., Sattar, S., and Eyster, L. (2022). Urban Institute. Understanding the Capacity of State Apprenticeship Systems: Apprenticeship Evidence-Building Portfolio. Chief Evaluation Office, U.S. Department of Labor.
Urban Institute. (2022). Understanding the Capacity of State Apprenticeship Systems: Apprenticeship Evidence-Building Portfolio. Chief Evaluation Office, U.S. Department of Labor.
Payne, P., Kuehn, D. (2023). Urban Institute. Models of Youth Registered Apprenticeship Expansion: Evidence from the Youth Apprenticeship Readiness Grants. Chief Evaluation Office, U.S. Department of Labor.
Urban Institute. (2023). Models of Youth Registered Apprenticeship Expansion: Evidence from the Youth Apprenticeship Readiness Grants. Chief Evaluation Office, U.S. Department of Labor.
Payne, P., Kuehn, D., Trutko, J., and Trutko, A. (2023). Urban Institute. Youth Apprenticeship in the United States: Apprenticeship Evidence-Building Portfolio. Chief Evaluation Office, U.S. Department of Labor.
Urban Institute. (2023). Youth Apprenticeship in the United States: Apprenticeship Evidence-Building Portfolio. Chief Evaluation Office, U.S. Department of Labor.
Spaulding, S., John T., Amanda B., Daniel K., Ian H., Ayesha I., and Alex T. (2020). Urban Institute. Implementation Evaluation of the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) Apprenticeship Pilot (Research Report). Chief Evaluation Office, U.S. Department of Labor.
Urban Institute. (2022). Apprenticeship Evidence-Building Portfolio: VETS Apprenticeship Pilot Evaluation. Chief Evaluation Office, U.S. Department of Labor.
Project Duration: 60 Months
Contract End Date: September 2024
Contractor: Urban Institute, Mathematica Policy Research, and Capital Research Corporation
For More Information: ChiefEvaluationOffice@dol.gov
The Department of Labor’s (DOL) Chief Evaluation Office (CEO) sponsors independent evaluations and research, primarily conducted by external, third-party contractors in accordance with the Department of Labor Evaluation Policy. CEO’s research development process includes extensive technical review at the design, data collection and analysis stage, including: external contractor review and OMB review and approval of data collection methods and instruments per the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA), Institutional Review Board (IRB) review to ensure studies adhere to the highest ethical standards, review by academic peers (e.g., Technical Working Groups), and inputs from relevant DOL agency and program officials and CEO technical staff. Final reports undergo an additional independent expert technical review and a review for Section 508 compliance prior to publication. The resulting reports represent findings from this independent research and do not represent DOL positions or policies.