Last week was National Apprenticeship Week in the UK, where hundreds attended the annual Apprenticeship 4 England conference. Franklin Apprenticeships Founder Kim Nichols was interviewed about the future of the US apprenticeship movement. She shares Franklin Apprenticeships’ plans to invigorate workforce training and development, and bridge the widening skills gap between young adults entering the workforce and companies that have millions of job vacancies.

Q: What is the opportunity in the US for more robust Apprenticeship programs?

A: We see the opportunity to be tremendous in the US. Just compare the growth in apprenticeships between the UK and the US over the last two years. The UK added over a million apprentices. The US added 125,000. So, we think the opportunity is tremendous.

There are opportunities to bring the UK model – not only the content that already exists here that just needs to be massaged for US employers, but also the processes around mentoring, assessments, how to engage employers, and how to recruit and attract apprentices. It’s a similar labor market in the US as to the UK because it is very employer driven. And we think it’s a great match.

Q: How do you think this fits in with the new Administration?

A: We think the apprenticeships fit squarely within the Trump Administration’s plan to grow jobs in the US. He is talking about investing a trillion dollars in infrastructure. That will create a tremendous amount of new jobs. And, all of those workers will need to be trained. Plus, there are other manufacturing jobs and other industries – such as IT – that’s up and coming. With that will come a lot of training that will need to take place. We think Trump should have a “You’re Hired” campaign instead of “You’re Fired” – and yeah, we think it’s a great opportunity.

Q:  What do you consider to be the roadblocks?

A: American society still sees four-year college as a success measure that means you’re going to be sustainable. And, apprenticeships still have a negative connotation to them – it’s for the kids that didn’t get into college and so they’re going to go into an apprenticeship. There’s not an understanding of the occupations that are available, or of the training. There’s definitely a need for branding and awareness around apprenticeships. We have a lot of work to do in that area.

Q:  What does the future hold for apprenticeships in the US?

A: In ten years’ time, we think apprenticeships can be a real solution to the workforce issues in the United States. We’ve got a significant skills gap; millions of jobs that need to be filled. According to Dr. Bob Lerman, who’s an apprenticeship expert and an economist in the US, we should have about 8 million apprentices, so getting to that level would be a tremendous opportunity for our young adults to begin careers without the debt. Earn and learn as they go and increase their salaries and wages as they improve their skills.