Workforce concerns are increasing. Nearly every business has a “Now Hiring” sign in the window and our talent pool seems to be rather shallow. While I am hearing concerns about finding and hiring good people, a helpful, steadfast answer to this challenge may be apprenticeships.

Apprenticeships are an excellent opportunity for companies to build their workforce, not buy them. Training someone internally in various capacities within a company creates a strong sense of value for that employee and studies indicate that the apprenticeship model reduces turnover.

Utilizing a registered program as a retention tool is often overlooked. According to the Department of Labor, Wisconsin created the first state Registered Apprenticeship system in 1911, and in 1937, Congress enacted the National Apprenticeship Act (also known as the Fitzgerald Act), establishing the program as it is known today.

There’s a lot of support for registered apprenticeships and work-based learning opportunities across the U.S., and its usage is expanding. Registered apprenticeships are an opportunity to learn new skills, and upgrade skills, and work while learning — all the while being paid. Some companies are creating professional development opportunities by growing the skills of their current team members.

Many communities are working together to build pre-apprenticeship trainings in tandem with a regional economic development workforce strategy. By working with community colleges, for instance, sector partnerships can leverage training regionally and can build registered apprenticeships around a region’s workforce needs.

As we move forward, and move out of the pandemic opportunities exist for apprenticeships to help underserved populations. For example, a successful re-entry program in Northeast Ohio provides training with wrap around services. This program enables employers to get to know those that they are hiring and by providing essential services to fill in gaps, such as transportation concerns, eliminates barriers for those who are justice involved to transform their lives. Historically, justice involved individuals have been underserved in many ways, and apprenticeship programs provide an illuminated path towards a successful career and drastically reduce the rate of recidivism.

It’s a myth that registered apprenticeships or trades are a union model. This is evaporating, as apprenticeships can bridge someone into the fields of healthcare and IT. Tech is a trade, as witnessed by the demand for tech jobs where many employers have forgone the requirement for a college degree. Coding bootcamps, such as Eleven Fifty Academy in Indianapolis, which draws from over twenty states across the country, offers accelerated courses online and their Career Services team helps place their graduates into sustainable careers.

Work-and-learn training and development models are possible with apprenticeships, even in IT. For IT, there is an importance of industry credentials, such as SEC+ certifications, where individuals are able to study while working. Technically, a certificate of apprenticeship is an industry-recognized credential that is nationally portable and recognized and they are gaining in popularity.

There’s room for more. Several regions are working together to create registered apprenticeships specific to their industries to build their workforce talent funnels.

Another example is a college in Virginia worked with Amazon to create a registered apprenticeship for automation work on the machines utilized in fulfillment centers. This particular registered apprenticeship is related to IT work.

The Department of Labor released the following data: the pandemic’s affect on the national economy resulted in a 12% decline in the number of new apprentices in 2020 compared to 2019. Even with this decline, 2020 numbers are the third-highest ever for its Registered Apprenticeship programs. In 2020, more than 221,000 individuals nationwide entered the apprenticeship system.

  • Nationwide, there were over 636,000 apprentices obtaining the skills they need to succeed while earning the wages they need to build financial security.
  • 82,000 apprentices graduated from the apprenticeship system in 2020.
  • There were nearly 26,000 registered apprenticeship programs active across the nation.
  • 3,143 new apprenticeship programs were established nationwide in 2020, representing a 73% growth from 2009 levels.

The trend is not slowing down. Registered apprenticeships may benefit your community’s economic development plan.



Brenda Vogley 

Senior Project Manager