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Measuring the Potential of Apprenticeships
Apprenticeships have bipartisan support as a promising alternative to bring young people into the workforce, but they are still only a tiny fraction of total job openings in the United States. In this report, co-authored with the Managing the Future of Work Project at Harvard Business School, we assess the potential to expand this approach.
Apprenticeships are much more common in Europe than the United States. There has been considerable discussion about expanding this option into new fields, but no comprehensive assessment of the opportunities. To find answers, we examined the skills demanded in job postings for more than 23 million openings in 2016. We identified the underlying skills in apprenticeship roles and looked for similarities in other positions. We found, based on this skills analysis, that there is significant opportunity to expand apprenticeships in the United States:
Based on analysis of the Burning Glass database of job postings, we found:
- The number of occupations using apprenticeships could be expanded from 27 to 74;
- The number of job openings filled by apprentices could grow from 410,000 to roughly 3.3 million;
- Many of these new fields pay more than current apprenticeship occupations, with up to a $20,000 salary premium; and,
- Many of these occupations are difficult for employers to fill using current channels.
Most existing apprenticeships are concentrated in skilled trades, such as carpenters, glaziers, and sheet metal workers. The study identified two other kinds of roles that could also use this training approach:
- Expander roles, 21 jobs that don’t require a bachelor’s degree, such as shipping clerks, solar photovoltaic installers, and tax preparers.
- Booster roles, which include jobs where employers often request a bachelor’s degree, even though the skills needed don’t require a college education. These 26 occupations include claims adjusters, human resource specialists, computer user support specialists, and database administrators.
This is not to say that significant barriers to expanding apprenticeships do not exist—they do. But this analysis shows that there is significant unrealized potential in the apprenticeship field. Armed with this data, employers, educators, and policymakers can pursue a targeted strategy for expanding apprenticeships into more occupations, especially those areas where they see a shortage of middle skills talent.
Occupations That Could Be Filled by Apprenticeships
These occupations have common characteristics with current apprenticeship occupations, and potentially could also be filled using the apprenticeship approach. Booster roles are those which sometimes, but not always, request a bachelor’s degree.
|Cabinetmakers and Bench Carpenters||Architectural and Civil Drafters|
|Coating, Painting, and Spraying Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders||Billing and Posting Clerks|
|Computer Numerically Controlled Machine Tool Programmers, Metal and Plastic||Camera Operators, Television, Video, and Motion Picture|
|Computer-Controlled Machine Tool Operators, Metal and Plastic||Chefs and Head Cooks|
|Crushing, Grinding, and Polishing Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders||Chemical Technicians|
|Customer Service Representatives||Claims Adjusters, Examiners, and Investigators|
|Electrical and Electronics Repairers, Commercial and Industrial Equipment||Computer User Support Specialists|
|First-Line Supervisors of Personal Service Workers||Database Administrators|
|Gaming Surveillance Officers and Gaming Investigators||Drafters, All Other|
|Industrial Truck and Tractor Operators||Executive Secretaries and Executive Administrative Assistants|
|Medical Equipment Preparers||Graphic Designers|
|Medical Equipment Repairers||Hazardous Materials Removal Workers|
|Medical Secretaries||Human Resources Specialists|
|Medical Transcriptionists||Insurance Sales Agents|
|Ophthalmic Medical Technicians||Insurance Underwriters|
|Painters, Transportation Equipment||Legal Secretaries|
|Solar Photovoltaic Installers||Life, Physical, and Social Science Technicians, All Other|
|Stationary Engineers and Boiler Operators||Mechanical Drafters|
|Tax Preparers||Medical Records and Health Information Technicians|
|Water and Wastewater Treatment Plant and System Operators||Nuclear Medicine Technologists|
|Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers||Occupational Health and Safety Specialists|
|Paralegals and Legal Assistants|
|Payroll and Timekeeping Clerks|
|Purchasing Agents, Except Wholesale, Retail, and Farm Products|
|Sales Representatives, Wholesale and Manufacturing, Except Technical and Scientific Products|
|Sales Representatives, Wholesale and Manufacturing, Technical and Scientific Products|